I remember experiences in fragments, in little vignettes that play like short films in my mind.
On Saturday, Sept. 23, I attended the Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks concert at Gillette Stadium with my wife and four of my friends.
Here’s a mosaic of the music and experiences from a night where I had the pleasure of watching two septuagenarian musicians remind all of us in attendance what it means to really rock ‘n’ roll.
“The Couple from Vermont”
We pre-gamed at an Irish pub two miles from the stadium and a mile from the hotel where the six of us were sharing a room for the night. The pub was as spacious as a dining hall with a long L-shaped oak bar and walls covered with Irish-American regalia—framed pictures of JFK and antique Guinness posters and Notre Dame paraphernalia.
We sat on stools surrounding a thick communal pole by the entrance. A married couple in their forties, having just arrived from Vermont, were sharing the stools next to us and also attending the concert. My wife and our friends Kim and Nicole—ever the social butterflies—started chatting with them, and it turned out the Vermonters were also high school sweethearts who lost touch when they left the Green Mountain State to attend colleges in the Midwest and South, respectively.
They told us they reconnected through Facebook seven years ago and fell in love again. They’ve been married for five years.
“That’s so sweet,” my wife said, smiling at Kim and Nicole, who both agreed that it was sweet.
I got up to use the bathroom, and it turned out the men’s room was an open-concept affair, so I left without relieving myself. “Barbarians,” I hissed, talking about the people responsible for the open-concept bathroom, not the couple from Vermont.
“A Tom Brady Moment”
Heather brought six ponchos, and we marched a mile in the misty rain. Brian and I hid our beer cans up our sleeves whenever we passed a cop. I was a little bit tipsy and a little bit soaked by the time Gillette Stadium came into view on the horizon.
“Tommy,” I said under my breath, thinking about all of the Super Bowl titles Tom Brady won as a New England Patriot, as opposed to the fabulous music I was about to enjoy. Saying his name lifted my spirits and put a hop in my step, so I said it again. “Tommy.”
“A Tom Petty Moment”
I can think of no better example of man out-kicking his coverage than the gangly rock-troubadour Tom Petty somehow landing a stunning young Stevie Nicks.
Now 75 years old, Stevie Nicks was still stunning in her long flowing black dress and gossamer scarves, and she hasn’t lost a step with her vocals. She played the Tom Petty song she recorded on her 1981 album “Bella Donna,” a duet with the late-rocker. Billy Joel came on stage and sang “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” to thunderous applause.
Later, Nicks performed a beautiful tribute to Petty with a cover of “Free Fallin’” from Tom Petty’s 1989 solo album “Full Moon Fever.”
I must’ve gotten something in my eye during that song, rain running down my cheeks.
“Why Isn’t Anyone Dancing?”
“Why isn’t anyone dancing?” my wife screamed into my ear after hearing the first palm-muted notes of “Edge of Seventeen.” She, of course, was dancing in front of her seat with Kim while Brian and I sat in our seats, like most of the audience around us, enjoying the music.
“Have you read any of the columns?” I asked my wife. But she couldn’t hear me. It was loud and gorgeous and raining, and she was dancing.
“Gen. Z Stands in Front of Me”
My daughter had asked me to record a video on my phone if Billy Joel played “Vienna,” a song that means a lot to each of us, for different reasons.
As soon as he played the first few notes on the piano, I took out my phone. The two rows of seats in front of me were empty, and I had a clear view of the stage from the nosebleed section.
Until I didn’t.
With an abundance of the empty seats in front of me, a young couple—they couldn’t have been much older than 20 years old—moved directly in front of me and stood up throughout the song, swaying and kissing and screaming the lyrics.
They were dancing, and my wife was pleased.
“A Mash-up of My Adolescence”
When I was in high school, my two musical obsessions grew from my parents’ vinyl record collection.
Led Zeppelin was my first obsession, a band I discovered by listening to my parents’s battered copy of “Led Zeppelin IV.” From the first riff on “Black Dog,” I was hooked. I proceeded to buy every Zeppelin album on cassette tape and then purchased their box set as some of my first CDs.
My bedroom walls were plastered with posters and pictures of the band. I tried to learn to play the guitar so I could play Led Zeppelin.
Billy Joel was my second obsession.
In his final song, Joel played “You May Be Right” from his 1980 album “Glass Houses.” Midway through the song, the band broke into a cover of Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” While phasing back into “You May Be Right,” they were playing a mash-up of both songs, finishing something that started many decades ago for me.
Or maybe I was just really stoned.
After eating an ill-advised sausage and egg biscuit at the continental buffet in the hotel lobby the next morning, my stomach was somersaulting, and when everyone decided to stop at a Cracker Barrel restaurant 10 miles south of Foxborough, I decided to stick to liquids and ordered an orange mimosa off the menu, sipping my cocktail while my wife and friends waited for their breakfasts.
And they waited. And they waited. And they waited while I ordered a second mimosa, obliterating any trace of a hangover.
When the meals finally arrived, they looked like the plastic breakfast plates that toddlers serve adults from their toy kitchen sets.
“This is the worst breakfast I’ve ever had,” my wife said, poking a hockey puck trying to pass as a sausage patty.
Brian stuck his fork in a bowl of white gravy. “It looks like glue,” he said. “And tastes like it, too.”
“My breakfast is fine,” I said, grinning and trying not to gloat. But I was gloating.