Not ’95 Anymore

“Our love is like water, pinned down and abused for being strange.” ~Live

It was the summer of ’95 all over again, when Live was on everyone’s lips, when they sold out amphitheaters and arenas seconds from the tickets being available, when they had the rock world by the throat and weren’t easing off. It was taking the ferry across the river knowing that on the other side would be anthems you could sing in your sleep, and a band that truly connected with its fans in a way I hadn’t seen from many bands in live forums before.

But that was 23 years ago, the summer of ’95. That was a simpler time, before digital took over, before CDs went the way of Betamax, before concerts became passe, before rock bands took a back seat to what passes for hip-hop and rap anymore. Yet, for one night, it was easy to believe we were back there because, for one night, it was Live again, doing what they’ve always done better than most — rocking a live show. I guess they were aptly named.

Of course, during the summer of ’95 I hardly ever had good seats to shows. I saw Live about 20 times that summer, and the closest I got was section H in the Spectrum (think nosebleeds — Michael Jordan looked small from that spot). In amphitheaters like the Mann Music Center and the Camden Center for the Performing Arts I was always on the lawn, fighting my way through the crowds to the barrier that separated us from the roofed in portion of the venue. I screamed my lungs out, but we were too far away, even though we were in the same place, at the same time.

So when Live got back together last year I was breathless in anticipation of what might come down the line as a result, of what I knew could be something special if I didn’t think too much about it. It was like those times we pretended we were invisible, hoping that things would happen around us that would benefit us, then we could snap our fingers and appear again, ready to reap the rewards. And, like the magic I had wished for but dared not hope to dream about, they went on tour, and they were coming back home. Or as close to home as they would get on this tour — Camden. And it was ’95 all over again.

We didn’t sleep out for tickets. No one does that anymore. It’s all done online, with the clicking of a button over and over again. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. I stared at the screen, mesmerized by the spinning icon, then the same image, over and over again. But I was persistent because I knew the pot of gold that lay at the end of our proverbial rainbow. Pre-sale tickets were just like what we would get when we slept out, except without a kink in our necks from sleeping bags on hard concrete. When I finally got in, it was a frenzy, checking the seat configuration, gauging the prices, thinking of what would be best for us.

Because this wasn’t ’95 anymore. This was 2018, and this was way more special than any of those ’95 shows could have ever been. Because this time I was going to see them with my wife, with the woman who, if not for this band, probably would have never been with me in the first place. So while Live was one of my favorite bands back then, Live has transcended simple band status to me, and to us. It was amazing to sit there in front of that screen and imagine my wife’s face when she found out which section, which row, which seats we would have because of my diligence that morning, clicking refresh over and over again.

We arrived on the ferry, just like ’95 but not quite, the engine chugging along, the water sloughing off in its wake like so much dead skin. The skyline was inviting and persuasive at the same time, drawing me back in time but forward to what awaited as well. Whitney Houston played over the sound system, and then Radiohead, and on and on, but all I wanted was Counting Crows, and Live, and that feeling that had been building all day. Through the rainstorm on South Street, through the Museum of the American Revolution, through even the seaport, with its kitsch atmosphere, the day had led us to the ultimate culmination, and the water separated us from it.

So it was fitting when Live finally took the stage at 7:46 and they started with the strains of their ’94 anthem, All Over You. “Our love is like water, pinned down and abused for being strange. Our love is no other than me alone, for me all day…” It was meant to be, all of it. All the years between, all the ups and downs, even the breakup and the reunion. It was all a perfect representation of life, with its myriad shifts, with its breakdowns and salvations. It was the best possible end to a hiatus that I had hoped would never happen, but I feel made the band stronger when they got back together, that made us all stronger as fans, as those who had knit our souls to the music.

For the next hour and a half it was like ’95 all over again, but so much better. The feeling, the emotion, the pure adrenaline of being there with so many others who had also endured, who had also come full circle in the intervening 23 years, who let it all out while the band was on stage. We sang, we cried, we laughed, we screamed our lungs out, we thrashed our heads, and we smiled at each other because we knew, in that moment, in those moments, it was all perfect. We were in the presence of a band that had fallen apart and picked itself up again, and were better than ever. Who knew they would ever get there again? Who knew WE would ever get here again?

But it’s not ’95 anymore. And that’s okay. That’s just fine.

Sam

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