Dallas, TX ... October 19, 2009... Sons of Hermann Hall
Thinking Like That
There's a Willow
Around My Smile
For the Rest of Your Life
Feeling of Gaze
- From Ron Bramhall: Hope Sandoval's voice has provided the soundtrack to my life. That's how it seems. Her music has always been there for me. I've always found peace, creativity, and warm emotions through her art. Some people never seem to be able to slow down and listen to music -- true music -- music made from the soul, not arranged to follow some familiar path just to please the radio. Within my varied social circles, I often feel alone in my attachment to Hope's signature sound. Thank God -- I like it, I need it -- that way.
Intuition led me to the news (on this wonderful website!) of the new release and that the tour would be stopping in Dallas. My excitement in the days leading up to the show was uncanny, intense. I'd been waiting to see Hope for almost half my life, having discovered Mazzy Star with their first album during my early '90s college days in Florida.
I played her music (especially the new one) even more than normal during the week before the show, prompting my 10 and 7 year olds to ask "Why do you have the ghost lady on all the time?" before switching over to the latest Disney radio hit.
I found myself reflecting, realizing that each of her new releases had come at different peaks and valleys of my life, and that her voice had remained the constant thread throughout -- outlasting every romantic relationship and career change I'd made. I love lots of different kinds of music, every genre there is, but she alone had remained iconic, anticipated. Mysterious and ethereal. Okay, I'll just admit it...an obsession. I couldn't wait to see her in person.
Standing in line at the venue -- the unique, comfortable, northern-like Sons of Hermann Hall in the legendary Deep Ellum district of downtown Dallas -- someone spoke out what a lot of us were thinking: "So, this is what happened to all the Gen-Xers, huh?" A generous giggle followed and I gazed at my fellow late 30-somethings who made up most of the eclectic crowd. Just by being there, I knew these were Hope's people, as it almost seems she tries on purpose to not advertise her tour.
It took awhile before they let us into the upstairs concert hall, but the downstairs bar was open, so I enjoyed a few Shiners with my girlfriend, enhancing the "altered" state of mind I had achieved on the ride up. Once inside, I was thrilled at the intimacy of the hall. The small stage was situated in a corner of the large, open room, with just a rope separating fans by about 15 feet. I couldn't believe I would be able to get so close. My girl and I made some interesting friends with various people at the show and Dirt Blue Gene quietly took the stage, performing an awesome set of tightly crafted atmospheric music. Too bad so many people chose to talk throughout and not pay them the attention they deserved. I was disappointed to not find their CD available at the show, because they definitely earned a new fan.
After their set, my anticipation reached a peak. I immediately (and easily) moved to the very front of the crowd, center stage, and began the long, long wait, spiked by adrenaline and unexplainable nervousness. And then -- out of the darkness -- there she was. On her way to the stage, Hope passed within inches of me, and I was amazed at just how incredibly beautiful she actually was. Petite, seemingly ageless -- the embodiment of my dream girl. She moved behind the mike and the concert was launched with "Courting Blues". I stood wide-eyed, enraptured like a schoolboy, coming to grips with the fact that the moment had finally arrived. She was mystifying and I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I could see her face clearly for most of the show, hoping in vain to be blessed with just one moment of eye contact...but, alas, it was not to be... The set flowed smoothly, minus a few early sound problems that definitely bothered Hope. She needn't have worried, the band sounded incredible live, and her voice was hypnotizing. It's rare to find a performer that's even better live than in the studio. But then, about mid-way through the show, major drama ensued.
As a veteran Dallas concert-club goer, I know that on any given night in Big D it's inevitable that some of the crowd will be guys who drifted in looking for a party, clueless to who's playing. Dallas tends to have loud, talkative concert crowds and this show was no exception. Hope paused between songs (I think it was after "Charlotte") and looked over the rear of the room. And then she spoke -- "You guys sure like to talk a lot. Please stop talking so much." She outstretched her glorious arm, pointing beyond the hall. "If you want to hang out, I'm sure there's a big room over there that you can do it in. These are quiet songs, and I can hear everything you say up here. Do you have to talk so much?" Then it happened.
"Do you have to bitch so much?" sounded a hoarse male voice somewhere behind and to my left.
Collective gasp. My eyes on Hope. I was terrified my dream was about to end early. I looked desperately at the faces of the band members - searching for their reactions -- and loudly blurted out through clenched teeth, "Get that guy out of here!" I mean, how could he talk to Hope like that? I'd kill him if I was near...
Hope calmly looked in the direction of the voice and said, "Is it too much to ask?" And then the music started again and I could breathe. Whew. She melted seamlessly back into the song "Wild Roses", proving that she's not as fragile as so many believe! I think I was more upset.
Every song was monumental, but highlights for me included "Wild Roses", "Around My Smile" (where she definitely had it "going on") and "For the Rest of Your Life" which built into a climaxing crescendo that left me exhilarated. I never knew a xylophone could move me in such strange ways. A long wait for the encore was punctuated by mild non-stop cheering, clapping, and hooting, leading to another close pass by the mystery girl. As she went by again, I found myself calling out "Hope" in a longing, almost whispered plea that earned a strange look from my girlfriend. As "Feeling of Gaze" faded away and I knew my time near her greatness was closing, I found myself smiling happily. I felt euphoric. The way her voice has always made me feel. Seeing Hope Sandoval live had been everything I had imagined it would be and more. One step closer to a complete life. Leaving was difficult. Would I ever see her again? On the ride home, my sweet girl asked, "Did you see some of the film playing behind the band?" I winced. "Not really, baby." She shook her head knowingly. "Yeah, I didn't think so." At least she understands.