Graham: Cornell, Grande show importance of live music

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

When Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell died last week after performing a sold-out concert at the Fox Theatre, that night’s show — Soundgarden’s final performance — immediately went down in the annals of Detroit rock history.

Fans who were there have a story to tell for the rest of their lives. Fans who missed the show — it was a Wednesday night, tickets were too expensive, there are plenty of excuses — will kick themselves just as long for not being there.

The lesson: See your favorite artists when you have the chance, because you might not get it again.

Five days later, terror struck an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, as a suicide bomber killed 22 and injured at least 59 others when he detonated an explosive device outside Manchester Arena. It was a horrific, senseless attack that took advantage of the inherent trust we put in each other and our surroundings when we attend public events such as concerts.

So is the lesson to not go to concerts and to stay inside, at home, where you’re safe?

It can’t be.

Live music is incredible. It’s bizarre that something so amazing even exists. As much as you might love your favorite movie, you’re never going to get to go watch the actors from “Top Gun” perform it live in front of you. And if they did, you would probably have to travel far to see it, it’s not going to come to you.

With music, you’re able to see your favorite artists perform it live, in front of you, and they come to you. What? How is that possible? And they do it in a shared space where other like-minded individuals gather to watch that artist perform their music at an insane volume and put on a visually extravagant show. Live music is like nothing else, especially at a time when we are living through our phones and our Netflix queues and craving unique experiences. Live music is a gift.

Sometimes, in cases like the Ariana Grande concert, that gift is messed with, and the trust of the live experience — the simplicity of it that we all take for granted — is broken. A similar situation occurred when terrorists killed 89 people at an Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris in 2015. Those artists will never fully heal and will carry those nights with them forever, and music fans should as well. There’s no rhyme or reason to the attacks: An Ariana Grande show in Manchester, an Eagles of Death Metal show in Paris — it can happen anywhere. But the impulse cannot be to retreat. It should make you clap louder and cheer harder at the next show you attend (which should be soon).

Live only happens once. If that sounds like a marketing slogan for concert promoter giant Live Nation, that’s because it is. But it gets the point across in four concise words. Every show is unique, every show is special. And every chance you have to see an artist you admire should not be taken for granted.

(The same goes for athletes and live sporting events: You can’t catch Michael Jordan anymore, so you should go see LeBron play while you can.)

The night after the Ariana Grande incident, Dave Chappelle played the Fillmore Detroit, the first night of the comedian’s five night, six-show run at the venue. He addressed the Ariana Grande terrorist attack during his show and made the point about staying the course, continuing to do what we do.

“They blew up an Ariana Grande concert last night, that (expletive) was heinous,” Chappelle said. “But I’m here tonight, and you’re all here tonight.”

And the next night, and so on. That’s because live is special, live is communal, and live is an experience. And no matter what, that experience must be cherished as the treasure it is.

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