1986. Age 5
I remember the lights that illuminated the stage in an otherwise all-dark room. I remember the drive into Manhattan from New Jersey at an hour that felt like the middle of the night. I remember dancing with my mother. I remember my sister accidentally spilled popcorn over the head of the guy that sat in front of her. He was seated, so maybe he deserved it. Ultimately, I recognize how that night impacted my life — opening the door to the powerful world of live music.
September 26, 1986. Stevie Wonder. Madison Square Garden. New York City. My first concert.
I was five-years-old. Starting at the age of two, I had an odd obsession with the arts. I was interested in the normal toddler toys to some degree, but nothing compared to my red record player or the toy drum kit (with Animal on the kick drum) that my aunt and uncle bought me for my birthday. I liked to spin Raffi and nursery rhymes from time-to-time, but my mother had a passion for John Lennon and Stevie Wonder. One of my first “conversation” memories was her telling me I was born the same day John Lennon was shot. We missed each other on this earth by just a few hours and I tell people we slapped hands on the way in / out.
A year earlier, Stevie Wonder released what remains as my favorite album out of his entire jaw-dropping collection — In Square Circle. “Part-Time Lover” was (and still is) a massive hit as it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, R&B, dance, and adult contemporary charts. The song’s simultaneous chart successes made Wonder the first artist to score a number-one hit on four different charts. It was the third single off In Square Circle however, that would tattoo itself to my existence.
One very early, foggy morning in 1986, I sat on the orange velvet couch in our living room as my mother replayed me Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” performance from a talk show the day before. Whatever the “song moves you to tears” emotional equivalent is for a five-year-old is exactly what happened to me. What a melody. What a wave.
To this day, “Overjoyed” is one of my top three favorite songs (in the key) of life. It’s the song my mother and I danced to at my wedding.
My Lennon-Wonder- “Overjoyed” fascination, plus random access to four nose-bleed tickets, led my parents to exploring the idea of taking us to our first concert. What I love is that nobody told me what to expect at a live show. I marveled at the massive circle that is MSG. How tiny a human being must look inside that place, I thought. I panicked as the lights went out and I melted into the roars of the crowd. Other than the images on the side-screens, we could only see Stevie in the form of a ray of light. Fitting. We could hear everything perfectly though.
“Overjoyed” was the sixth song played in a set filled with sing-a-longs. I have flashbacks to a ring-shaped stage rising up with Stevie seated in the middle. He breaks into that stunning intro on piano as he glides into his signature head-sway in perfect harmony. My mother turns to me, grabs me by the shoulders,… “This is it, this is it! Overjoyed”.
Overjoyed we were.
What I took from my first concert was that music has the power to move mountains. It’s a universal pulse that unites people. It’s an emotional and creative outlet that you can make yours alone. It’s a form a self-expression that can trigger these emotions that are buried deep within internal compartments that you didn’t know existed. It’s a form of healing. It’s celebratory.
It’s whatever you want it to be.
If I could put a “concert experience” to a visual it would be the beautiful father/son video at Coldplay, where “Fix You” completely exemplifies my last paragraph. I also see things like the Rockin’ 1000 take place and it brings me back to that fall night 21 years ago, as my eyes well up watching 1,000 people rock Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly” in perfect harmony.
For me, Stevie Wonder at the Garden in 1986 is a radiant trophy cemented high upon a showcase in my memory. That trophy is a true representation of how I see, hear and feel music still today. It also serves as one of the strongest bricks of my foundation — one that I always trusted to stand on in searching for who I wanted to become.
As Artist Waves continue to develop, it is my goal to turn a variation of “My First Concert” into a channel that provides children the opportunity to attend their first concert experience. Because on top of it all, when you’re at a live show, the only thing that matters is the magic before you.
If you have the opportunity, if you have the means… take a kid to a see live music. They may only remember a light, but it’s a light that will shine forever.
“ And maybe too, if you would believe, you too might be …Overjoyed”
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