Friday night, Jim and I did something we almost never do (no, not THAT…get your mind out of the gutter!)…we went on a date. It was the first time in five months that we actually went somewhere without teenagers in tow!
Way back in the spring when I heard that Simon and Garfunkel were coming to Halifax in July, I had planned to get tickets for that…being the classic procrastinator that I am, I never got around to it…that tour was postponed due to Garfunkel having voice issues. Then I found out James Taylor and Carole King were playing in Boston (about two weeks before it was due to happen). Alas, Jim didn’t have a current passport, so that wouldn’t work either. Some time in July, I heard that John Hiatt was going to be in Fredericton for the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in September. That was do-able, but I hemmed and hawed knowing the probabilty of me buying the tickets and then having something come up that the kids just had to do…I finally took the plunge in late August. Good thing…there were only six seats left at the Playhouse when I finally booked our two (they were in Row P for “Procrastinator”)! I typed in my credit card number as fast as I could…
A couple days later, I picked up my tickets from the outlet down the street, and it sunk in that I was finally going to get a chance to see JOHN HIATT, a phenomenal singer-songwriter whose music has gotten me through a lot of stuff in the last 15 years! It was a bonus that Thom Swift, a member of another of my favourite bands, Hot Toddy, was opening for John.
Friday afternoon, Jim picked me up at the bookstore after work. We were away…hooray! It had been raining most of the day, but cleared up for our trip to Fredericton. Our drive was uneventful, and we’d gotten away early enough that we beat the traffic. We arrived in town just after five, and drove down the Prospect Street “strip” looking for somewhere to eat. We settled on a Chinese buffet place we’d never been to before.
It was quite busy…we were shown to a table by an Asian man, and soon, a very efficient waitress came over. “Are you having the buffet?” she asked. We answered, “Yes,” even though neither of us had any idea how much it was…she brought our drinks and directed us to “Help yourselves to the buffet.” So we did.
The selection of items was quite large, and heavy on deep-fried items. I filled my first plate, steering around anything labelled “spicy” (I’m a food wimp). Jim is a lot more adventurous than I am…
I enjoyed the chicken balls, the sesame chicken, the beef and broccoli, and some nicely-cooked fish fillets. The lemon chicken was very “lemony” and not sweet like the version I’m used to having in Saint John. Jim and I both agreed that the spring rolls were not good. He summed it up nicely: “Aftertaste of barnyard…not something you’d normally go for in a spring roll.”
While we were eating, we people-watched, kind of like Steve Carrell and Tina Fey did in Date Night…at the next table over, a couple in their early 40’s sat making small talk over their buffet food. He was well-muscled and good-looking, but not terribly bright. She was a tall, well-worn blonde. We decided it probably wasn’t their first date, but it was still early in the relationship (which I predict will be relatively short, once she gets over the physical attraction and finds out that he has nothing intelligent to say). At least we found out the price of the buffet while we were eavesdropping: $15.99.
We each refilled our plates with “safe” items, and finished up. We skipped dessert…we were stuffed! Jim paid the bill, and we got in the van. It was still early, but we knew that finding a parking spot close to the concert would be tricky.
We arrived at The Playhouse forty minutes before showtime. We walked around and checked out the art in the galleries there while we were waiting for the theatre doors to open. I was attracted to a large clock made of old vinyl records (and other assorted objects), which was part of a silent auction…minimum bid was $1500…guess we’re skipping that one! I popped a couple of Imodium to counteract the effect of all that greasy food. After one last trip to the washroom, the doors finally opened.
Our seats were in the back row, on the aisle. There were two steps leading up to them. Luckily, there were only six seats in that row…we were the first of the six people to arrive. We sat down and chatted until another person came along. We had to exit the row, because there wasn’t enough room to get past even if we’d stood up. We heard her say that her friend might arrive a half hour late…great! Soon another couple came. They were on the other end of our little group, so we all three exited the row into the aisle. We sat back down. The show was almost ready to start, when the “late” friend arrived. We filed out of the row yet again, so she could totter to her seat in her very high gladiator sandals. Her friend explained that she had ordered beer for them for the break, and offered her a sip of the beer she already had…the new arrival seemed very grateful.
Once we were seated again, I looked over to Jim’s right…sitting on the carpetted step beside Jim’s seat was a man wearing a baseball cap and holding a guitar…Thom Swift was sitting beside us! I toyed with the idea of acknowledging him, but didn’t want to seem like a crazy fan, so I just pretended he wasn’t there (which was really hard – just look at him! Thom is a six-foot package of smoky, swarthy, sex appeal). I also thought it would be impolite to climb over my fiancé to get to him…
Bob Mersereau from CBC Radio came out and introduced Thom, who walked up and down the aisle playing some rockin’ blues for his first tune. One of my favourite songs that Thom played was the title cut from his new album: Blue Sky Day. I’ve been a fan of Thom and Hot Toddy since I first saw them at the Imperial Theatre in Saint John in 2000. He is one of the best steel guitar players in the business! He is also a big fan of John’s, and described a Hiatt concert he’d seen in his youth as “life-changing.” After a solid hour of playing, Thom’s hometown crowd gave him a standing ovation. I bolted for the ladies’ room to beat the crowd.
After the break, we returned to our seats, playing the musical chairs game as other occupants came back…Ms. Gladiator Sandals didn’t make it before the show resumed. Bob came out and introduced John to thunderous applause (John mentioned that he hadn’t been feeling very well, but he felt a lot better after that welcome!). John opened with one of my favourite songs, Drive South. Ms. Gladiator Sandals made her entry three songs into the set…I was starting to lose my patience! Later in the show, her friend had to go to empty the beer from her bladder, and we filed into the aisle again. When I wasn’t jumping up and down, I enjoyed John’s music and the stories he told in between – he played solo, with no backup musicians or singers. John did all his greatest hits from the last 35 years or so (Cry Love, Tennessee Plates, Feels Like Rain) and a few new ones from the album released this spring, The Open Road. Two hours went by before I realized what happened! John too, received a standing ovation from the very appreciative crowd, and played Have a Little Faith in Me for an encore.
When we came out of the theatre, I was nearly giddy from the experience…I announced to Jim, “That, my darling, is why I love the blues!” After a quick stop in Oromocto, we headed home. Jim turned the radio on…Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap show on CBC Radio was a special one about Guitarology (Randy is a former member of a couple of Canadian supergroups: the Guess Who, and Bachman-Turner Overdrive). It was a perfect accompaniment for our drive (although I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been peering anxiously into the brush at the side of the road watching for moose!).
We arrived home just after midnight, and went to bed after checking our respective e-mails…we were exhausted but happy!