The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Elliott Murphy - Photo by François Richard

When William Shakespeare wrote – “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” – could he have imagined the year of 2021 where very few stages are open and us players are sitting in front of the TV, guitar in hand, with no place to go? Well, actually he might have, as he was born in 1564, just a few months before the bubonic plague swept across England and killed a quarter of the people in his hometown. Two of his siblings were lost to the disease of which contemporary doctors knew next to nothing about its cause or prevention. Later, just before opening his play Romeo and Juliet,theatres in London were closed for 14 months and 10,000 Londoners died. Everything changes and everything stays the same …

The good news is that now it seems we see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel – COVID 19 vaccines are starting to make the rounds and cases and deaths are down. The most perplexing article I’ve read about the virus lately was about why some very poor countries with dismal health care systems and virtually no social distancing such as Indian and Nigeria have a much lower death rate then western Europe or America. What’s up with that? My theory (which is based on absolutely no scientific basis at all) is that diabetes, obesity and other lifestyle diseases, which are contributing factors to the severity of the COVID virus, are not as prevalent in those poor countries where it’s a struggle merely to get enough to eat. Maybe someone, a lot smarter than me, will find out that there is a relationship with lifestyle, stress and our immune systems.

But what does this have to do with live music and the joy of the communal experience we all share therein? Rock ‘n roll, blues, country and jazz started in small clubs and as they grew more popular moved up to theatres and ballrooms but then even theatres were not big enough to hold the enormous crowds and that’s when live music decided to take the professional sports route and began filling arenas and eventually stadiums. I remember when the Beatles played at Shea Stadium in NYC, the home of the Mets Baseball team and this was (excuse the pun) a game changer. The sound is these arenas were generally terrible as they were not built with acoustics in mind but now I hear that new stadiums are designed more with live concert in mind that football games. Where to go from here?

Speaking for myself, I’ve always felt most comfortable in large club and small theatres. Somewhere in the 500 – 1500 range with a stage not so high that I can’t get close to the fans in the front row. I like the audience to be able to stand up and move if they so choose even if there are seats. I’ve never had to design a touring show for arena sized venues of 20,000 folks with large overhead video screens, amazing lighting effects and supersonic sound. Perhaps this is my destiny and I’m OK with that. But if I did ever have the opportunity to mount such a tour, my priority in terms of the visual would be to have the lyrics to the songs that were being performed displayed on those huge screens in many languages simultaneously. That’ a dream of mine … who knows?

Most of my upcoming shows have been moved to autumn 2021 and I hope they will stay there after being moved around all year long. To help ease the pain of these last few months (I hope) of lessened social activity and more time spent home we have reduced the price on two of my short story collections, Paris Stories and Garden City Stories,to 10€ each instead of €15. You can find them both, along with lots of other stuff, in the official website store. Been working on a Corona novel with my Spanish translator Peter Redwhite which shifts time and place in a way that Shakespeare would have appreciated. Stay healthy – see you down the road – and to end on a Shakespearian note: It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.

Photo by François Richard