January 15, 2015

The Movie Diary: There is power in numbers

By Dom Cioffi

While I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life mulling over the nuances of politics. I’ve never been political in action.

Sure, I’ve voted in every election since I was eligible and made it a point to understand the important topics, but I’ve never been one to attend a rally, march or convention. I’ve watched them on television, but that’s as far as I’ve traveled.

The same holds true for religion.

While I was baptized and confirmed in a church and raised with standard Christian beliefs, as an adult I’ve never felt compelled to be part of a congregation. I consider myself spiritual, but to me the concept of a higher power is better realized on a personal level.

As such, I’ve always marveled at the folks on television who come alive with the holy spirit while listening to a televangelist preach. Watching them sway to and fro while bursting with religious fervor has always fascinated me.

I guess when it comes to getting amped up at a live event, I’ve always been more apt to gravitate toward the concert arena rather than the political or religious. Music seems to be the thing that moves me – always has.

Like many people, the first concert I attended was at a county fair. In my case it was the Vermont State Fair where I saw Dr. Hook.

Kids today will draw a blank, but if you grew up in the 1970s, there’s little doubt you remember hits like “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” “Sylvia’s Mother” and “Sharing the Night Together,” among others.

I remember sitting in the grandstands with some junior high school friends and being completely taken aback that the songs I listened to on my record player were now being performed live by the actual artists right in front of me.

The feeling was profound and from that day forward I was hooked (no pun intended) on live music.

From high school to college and throughout my adult life, I have traveled near and far to see live performances by famous artists.

In the process, I’ve seen great concerts and I’ve seen awful concerts. I’ve remembered every song from a show and had a few shows that I can barely remember being at. I’ve seen bands on their way up and I’ve caught bands on their way down.

But throughout all my concert adventures, I’ve always just enjoyed sharing that experience with a large group of like-minded people.

Of all my concert experiences, however, one in particular stands out as the most memorable.

It occurred in the late 1980s when I attended a U2 concert with a group of friends. It was the “Joshua Tree” tour and I was just coming off an entire summer where that album reigned supreme in my cassette deck. Every track from beginning to end was powerful and evocative. 

Throughout the show, I watched intently as the band skillfully moved the crowd, mixing their current hits with a smattering of tracks from their previous albums. Bono was at his charismatic best at that time, whether he was singing or speaking to the crowd about any number of social issues.

But the high point of that show – and the high point of all my concert experiences – occurred as the band concluded the night with the song “40.”

U2 has famously ended many of their shows with this number because of the intense crowd involvement and the way the band exits, with each member sliding off stage one by one – first Bono, then Adam Clayton, then The Edge, until finally, Larry Mullin Jr. is left simply providing a lone drum beat.

During this conclusion, the audience is coerced into chanting the song’s refrain: “How long… to sing this song?”

At the concert I was at, everyone in the stadium sang the refrain, and not just while the band was exiting the stage, but also when the lights came on, as everyone was leaving the arena, as we walked into the parking lots, and finally as we entered our cars.

It may sound odd, but I assure you, hearing thousands of people chanting together in the dark of night as they dispersed into varied directions was eerily beautiful and something I will never forget.

I imagine many folks had the same experience when huge crowds gathered in Selma, Alabama, to protest alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 as the nation struggle with simmering issues of racial inequality.

This week’s feature, “Selma,” highlights this famous march and the days leading up to it where Dr. King struggled to navigate the precarious waters of social injustice.

Timing is everything and given what our nation is struggling with as of late, there could be no better time for this film to be released. The fact that it is an incredibly well crafted motion picture featuring stellar performances makes it that much more enticing.

Check this one out if only to learn about the historical context of one of our nation’s most important civil rights moments. There’s no doubt that this film will move you and have you re-appreciating the desire and commitment of MLK.

A dreamy “B+” for “Selma.”

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