Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Man-Crushes Manifest: David Gray & Craig Ferguson Live!

UPDATE: David Gray appeared on Craig Ferguson's show Friday, November 20! Regarding David's English heritage, Craig said he's "one of the good ones." I love it! Check out the video, then read on about my week with these two man-crushes o' mine!

Back on September 22, I celebrated the release of David Gray's latest album Draw the Line and Craig Ferguson's autobiography American On Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by dubbing both men my latest man-crushes. Well, if you thought I was excited that day, imagine the heights of my fanboy ecstasy as I saw both of them live this week! Yes, I had the pleasure of attending David Gray's concert at Los Angeles' Orpheum Theater on Monday, and, with Veterans' Day off from work, I seized the rare available weekday to reserve tickets for a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Both opportunities offered a sense of comprehensive appreciation for these guys' work, and of unexpected fulfillment for liking them so much in the first place.

The David Gray concert on Monday, November 9, was sold out, but I acquired my ticket through a Craigslist contact that opted for the impromptu Band of Horses show that night instead. (Thanks again, Erykah!) My friend Jennie joined me, and we waited in line and enjoyed the swanky digs of the Orpheum before Gray's opening act, Lisa Hannigan, took the stage. Lisa reminded me of a more eclectic Dolores O'Riordan (from the Cranberries), as she played a variety of stringed instruments and closed her set with a rockin' cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." Fortunately, it wasn't long after that my evening's savior took the stage . . .

. . . and I was pleased that Gray started his set with "First Chance," since I'm a sucker for wordplay. Amazingly, he found just the right balance between new material and the hits his fans would want to hear -- though thanks to my listening to Draw the Line several times a week already, I'm a fan of it all. Highlights included an extended ending to "Nemesis," which Gray introduced as a very personal tune, a simple yet poignantly effective light show to "Slow Motion," and a stripped down version of "Ain't No Love," which kicked off his shorter encore set and admittedly brought tears to my eyes. Hey, it ain't called a man-crush for nothin', okay?! In the end, we heard all of the songs that have achieved radio play in the past few years, and over half of the new album -- but, of course, I was left wanting more. Leave it to a master performer like David Gray to know when to draw the line.

On Wednesday, my friend and coworker Konrad and I left Orange County around 1:30 p.m. to get to Craig Ferguson's 3:30 p.m. taping, and after navigating the labyrinth of one-way streets and full parking lots around the CBS Studios in Hollywood, we managed to get in the end of the line just in time to make the cut of 108 attendees. (I don't know if anyone was cut, but that sounds pretty dramatic, right?) The audience warm-up guy, Chunky B, joined us downstairs before we entered the studio, and amusingly talked about the importance of Veterans' Day, how he needed us to help Craig, a proactive American citizen, make dynamic television that night. As he put it, we weren't watching TV -- that afternoon, we were TV. Surely not as important as military service, but I took the responsibility pretty seriously . . .

. . . and by seriously, I mean not seriously at all, as we were frequently encouraged to laugh loudly, even if Chunky's jokes weren't that funny. Konrad commented on the awkwardness of being demanded to have a good time, and I agree that it's ironic, but, hey, that's show business, baby. Eventually, Craig came out to deliver his monologue, which included commentary about Polish Independence Day and the recent inductees into the Toy Hall of Fame. Now, I'm both Polish and an avid toy collector, so I could think of few other monologues that could've been more perfect for me to witness in person. After the monologue, and then in between tapings for segments, Craig talked to the audience as a whole, and while he offered no chance to get an autograph, he was nevertheless charming and sincere. Indeed, he was a gracious host in every sense of the word.

So, two man-crushes in one week. Only in Los Angeles, eh? Both experiences were unique yet united by my unadulterated excitement at the chance to see these masters of their respective crafts in person, if only as part of a larger audience. Perhaps that's the best way to do it -- to experience these shows in the midst of others that might feel the same way. Vindication isn't too far a leap from the realm of entertainment, right? Further, and finally, the chance to see them live, to catch any flaws or vulnerabilities in their performances, only makes their significance as male role models that much more poignant. After all, what better evidence is there than a peek behind the scenes to prove that their work is worthy of getting under my skin?

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