Anita Sharpe on Passionate Work
Friday night I saw Dolly Parton in concert. Last night I saw the Brian Wilson Smile tour.
Dolly was sold out; the crowd was as energized as any I have ever seen in my life. 'They said I could just come out here and sing,' Parton told the crowd, 'but how dull is that?!' While I'm not much of a country-music fan and have minimal familiarity with her career, I was knocked out by her showmanship, her ability to work a crowd and, as one of my friend's noted, her ability to inspire such fan devotion just by being herself. (Of course, 'being yourself' is the essence of being an original.)
I was even more knocked out by Brian Wilson, although the concert venue was only half full and, in the beginning, the crowd was about as lively as an Episcopalian congregation. Early Beach Boys hits like Surfer Girl were met with polite applause. But after intermission, when Wilson, backed by a phenomenal band and orchestra, performed the long-awaited Smile album, something happened.
It was almost like a collective epiphany, when nearly everyone in the audience realized we weren't just watching a legendary entertainer or seeing an enjoyable show. This was no Justin Timberlake or Britney Spears. Instead, we were in the presence of genius, made even more powerful by the fact that it took almost 40 years to manifest.
After the concert, my amazed 12-year-old son said, 'Whoever missed seeing that, missed life.' In a way, he's right. Because what Wilson -- after decades of battling serious mental demons -- was able to do is what we were all put on earth to do: make sure that we don't go to our graves with our music still inside us.