Saturday, November 27, 2010

John Foxx at the Troxy

Raise your hand if you read the title of this post and thought that somehow this gig was rescheduled earlier and you missed it. Good. Now put your hands down. I can't see them anyway.

You didn't miss anything. The gig has indeed been postponed until April. Another dark spot in an already dark year. So what of my title? This isn't a review of a show, it's more of a review of the postponement. Or, at least my thoughts since hearing the gig was postponed.

On the Metamatic forum, there is a lot of discussion about a re-release of John Foxx and Louis Gordon's "Sideways" and "Crash and Burn" albums. I am frequently amused at how such forum threads take on a theological air. The devout raging against the heretics. We are not here to question the good things John Foxx has wrought. Others argue it is not wrong to question--how do you come into relationship with John Foxx if the conversation only has one side?

Of course, I'm speaking figuratively about John Foxx here. John Foxx the electronica god, in his black shirt, trousers, and jacket with his silver hair and piercing blue eyes. Always smiling and magnanimous towards his faithful brethren. And amidst the flurry of autograph seekers, photo takers, and fans looking to shake his hand and testify to his genius, the question always arises from the chaos: Why are you here? John has asked me that question many times before, though it's less of a question, more of a statement. "Brigid, I can't believe you've traveled so far for this." Or, "I hope this has been worth your trip."

Last year around this time, John did a gig in Bath. At the pub afterwards, he was making his rounds and sat across from me, arms folded, looking at me with an interrogative look in his eyes, as though he was going to penetrate my thoughts, dammit. He was going to figure out the mystery of why I come so far. (And he wanted to know something else too, but that's another story). My response to both types of insinuation was to smile politely, shrug and say nothing. I could tell from the exasperated eye-roll that I got from him that this was not the response he was looking for. But it couldn't be helped. There are no short answers, and the pub at midnight in the middle of a pre-Christmas party was hardly the place for discussion.

All that is last year's news, but it does bring me back to the question. I asked myself that question when I made my travel arrangements in September, in spite of my precarious financial position. Why are you going, Brigid? People have defended my going with lots of answers, all of them good points, but none of them the real answer.

In interviews, John will make the distinction between John Foxx and Dennis Leigh, as though they are two separate people. John Foxx is his public persona. The electronica god mentioned above--calm, cool, self-assured, and handsome. To hear him tell it, Dennis Leigh is apparently some teeming flaw colony, or at least terribly uninteresting, and he doesn't want people to see that. I find the split fascinating, because he often thinks his "John" disguise is impenetrable. As a matter of fact, it isn't--I've seen a lot of Dennis Leigh. And that's why I go to England so often.

Now, if John reads this, he will no doubt protest this point. He will swear that I don't know him that well, and that I certainly don't know "Dennis Leigh". And on this point, he would be wrong. No, that's too judgmental--he would be mistaken.

I read a book in one of my undergraduate Shakespeare courses called "The Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey (pen name for Elizabeth Mackintosh). It's a mystery story--the basic plot involves a Scotland Yard detective that knows all the history of Richard III, but when he looks at Richard's portrait, he knows that he could not have committed the atrocities attributed to him, and then he attempts to solve the mystery of who really was to blame. Mackintosh was like me--a bit of an amateur psychologist, and fascinated with portraits, facial expressions, movement of the eyes, and body language. In short, a person can say nothing and tell you everything; or, if not everything, at least a sufficient amount.

John Foxx is like a cloudy day to me. The clouds may be beautifully and astonishingly arranged, but I'm delighted when the sun peeks from behind the clouds--even if it's just for a second. The man who comes in breathless from the train station, hair askew from the wind, dressed in his corduroy trousers, a large glob of earwax visible in his ear. The man who drops a cup of coffee with shaky hands. The man who is taken by surprise and makes a comment, a facial expression, a gesture that is out of line with the neatly presented image. The man who, in his surprise at seeing me, says things that I wouldn't expect him to say. While John Foxx's impeccable appearance and beautiful live performances are wonderful, I am more taken in by the beauty of the unscripted, unprompted, and off-guard man. I care for the real man more than the external packaging. The plain old Dennis Leigh, art college graduate and son of a coal miner, without all the special effects. And--I should add--the "old" man. While he was a beautiful young man, I have no yearning for him to return to his youth. He's beautiful as he is now.

You may read all this and have a protest of your own. Yes, but WHY? Why would you fly 3,700 miles, spend hundreds of dollars, stand on your feet for 40 hours, just to talk to John for a few minutes here and there? Because honestly, I could watch a DVD or listen to a CD if it was just about the music (or the art), and save my money. To answer that, I'm going to quote the wisdom of the Rolling Stones: You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.

Clear as mud, right? I will say this--I have never gone to see John expecting anything, and always end up with way more than I expect. In fact--if I review the last 2+ years I've been going to see him, I'm quite amazed at how things have developed. If you'd told me about all the events that would transpire between then and now at that time, I would have said you were crazy. Which proves my point that sometimes it's good to be crazy. Life is not logical.


solenoid said...

The world has shrunk a lot in my time. I recall being a snotty nosed teenager, and going up to London to see Ultravox in '82 and thinking it was a huge adventure. A 30 minute train ride to the big city, then a 40 minute Tube ride across it. Now that seems absurdly long, but the fact is that I get on 'planes now more than I get on buses!! There is no sense of "voyage" anymore, just e;apsed time. At the Roundhouse there were people asking similar questions like "Why come so far?" - I look at them fairly blankly as I really don't know how to respond. I guess if I had to walk or pedal then I might actually appreciate the distance, but watching inflight movies and have food/drink brought to my seat, hmmm, I could endure worse!

fons said...

it all adds up to "because I can" and "the rest is not worth it", that last one is discussable though...lets make it "less worth it"