All photos: The amazing Manny Quintero
Confessions of a Concert Sponge
I was in Rexburg, Idaho recently. Ordinarily, this would be another bit of mundane news from my quiet life, except David Archuleta was there too. He gave two concerts at BYU-Idaho. I attended both, as I get a little greedy when it comes to hearing David sing live. To say the concerts were “great” doesn’t give them their due, although it is difficult to choose the right words to describe them. I only know that if superlatives were subject to a tax, I would be writing this from Debtors’ Prison.
I do travel to David’s concerts whenever I can, but it is not unusual for me, and fans like me, to return home and immediately check the internet for videos of the same event. I can’t explain why I do this, I only know it is important, and Serendipity played her hand for me in Rexburg. Not only did the venue sanction videos, but Saturday night’s front row was occupied by Shelley, Nancy and Tina, all well known in the fandom for this kind of work. Yes, there they were, cameras at the ready, just in case. It was like winning the YouTube Trifecta.
Thank you to those three fans, and others, for every video and photograph taken, because I cannot do it. I want to, and I have tried, but I am doomed to fail. It isn’t a matter of mastering technology; it is something quite different. You see, I am a concert sponge. Don’t laugh, this is serious. The minute David hits the stage, I am affixed to the “now” of what he is singing and saying and doing. I take it in and soak it up, oblivious to possible distractions, including the need to manage a camera. I mostly sit, riveted, benched like a Buddha but absorbing every musical morsel possible. This odd phenomenon precludes me from doing anything else except unintentionally looking weird in the process. Concert Sponge. It’s legit.
I nearly missed going. My regular travel buddy (aka the lovely Emily) and I had calendared Rexburg for our “swan song” concert trip before she headed off to college. It all went awry at the last minute when the perfect summer job intervened and she was unable to get away.
I quickly invited a dear friend (aka Carolyn), but was not optimistic about her joining me. She and I have known each other for decades, but as things sometimes go in life, Carolyn is now a 24-hour caretaker for her ailing husband. Nevertheless, whether you call it good luck or divine intervention, the right help and perfect timing suddenly came together and we were good to go.
Road trips teach you that anticipation is half the fun, and both of us expected lots of laughs with endless reminiscing. We were right; in fact, we traveled at an approximate speed of six hilarious stories per hour. For the last eight years, I have taught Carolyn everything she needs to know about David Archuleta, all of it without her even needing to ask. Now, with two concerts looming, it felt like Finals Week in a masterclass. Oh, how I wanted her to love every bit of it!
We were seated for the Friday night show with time left for some people watching, mainly to observe who chooses to attend a David Archuleta concert, and I am seeing some differences from years ago. I spotted many of “the regulars,” good people I have come to know because of David. Entire families were there, as well as couples young and old. It was no surprise to see plenty of college coeds, some with signs and vying to be David’s kind of perfect. Most unusual were the groups of guys, college age, just hanging out together at a concert, enjoying the music and appreciating the artist. We had one such group sitting in front of us on Friday, evidence that David has earned some guy cred.
There was no opening act, which was dandy with this crowd. David’s entrance was met with the kind of thunderous cheering only college kids can conjure up, and it was repeated between songs. He launched into his set with authentic enthusiasm and a big smile. The music was loud, a little too loud I thought, and the sound mix was a bit heavy on the instrumental side of things. It didn’t matter; I was already sponge-like and doing my thing.
[Sound issues were resolved before the next night.]
As expected, both shows had the same set list, and David absolutely nailed it each time, sixteen songs and two medleys. The highlights for me included the following: sixteen songs and two medleys. This was David’s kind of audience and he was comfortable, eager to share. These concerts were give and take shows. The more David gave, the more we took; and when we gave back, he generously gave us more.
After the way he opened with “The Other Side of Down” and “Somewhere Only We Know,” I knew we were in for one heck of a weekend. I was hardly prepared for “Don’t Run Away.” Have you watched this gem? So good it was dangerous.
And so it went, one song after another, with that voice, and with the crowd often singing along. They gave David unanimous approval to do Disney songs. “Trashin’ the Camp,” the shooby doop ditty from Tarzan earned David a gold star (and another star from me for his dancing). To my personal relief, David has also conquered the piano accompaniment for “My Kind of Perfect,” and his vocals were quite beautiful. I wonder if he heard that collective sigh from all the eligible girls in the audience.
David’s cover of “7 Years” by Lukas Graham was a welcome surprise to many there. This very popular song has a profound message; David delivered it profoundly, and perfectly. Another perfect moment came when David spoke about patriotism and honoring our veterans; and then, accompanied only by guitarist Brady Bills, he sang a moving rendition of “God Bless the USA.” We stood at the end of the song. It was sobering, but it was special.
There could be accolades assigned to every number he did. I won’t mention them all, but know that David was in a musical groove heretofore unmatched in his post-mission era. Saturday night noticeably bested Friday night in my opinion, but Friday night was superb.
Just noting a few more things:
- Missing the turnoff to Rexburg, which required us to drive 16 more miles on the freeway before we could turn around. Gotta love Idaho’s open spaces.
- Reviewing David’s concert clothes. I really liked the white shirt, and David’s footwear was smartly “rebooted.” Thumbs up.
- The never-been-here-before fan with no idea how large Idaho is who asked, “So, is Rexburg a suburb of Boise?”
- Knowing I could tell David’s concert stories, but won’t. Him doing it never gets old.
- David limiting his reactions to shouters from the audience, engaging just enough to keep people interested and the show flowing. Good job.
- David rambling into a “pickled beets” mention. One more reason to love this kid.
- Seeing David’s mother, stepfather and sister joining the audience Saturday night. Lupe was stunning and the obvious genetic reason David looks 17.
- The tenderness of “My Little Prayer.” Simple, sweet, spiritual, sincere, and still in my head.
- Seeing beautiful scenery photos pop up on my Twitter feed as fans (David too) took to touring the area on Saturday.
- Our waitress at a restaurant wanting to discuss David’s good looks (at length) after she found out why we were in Rexburg.
- Cathartic time with a longtime friend, comparing life’s frustrations, past heartaches and necessary medications, yet knowing the whippersnappers will get their turn.
- The awesome but feeble grandpa sitting behind us who brought his great-granddaughter to the concert, because David is her idol. I bet grandpa is too.
- David moving to the music like he doesn’t care anymore who is watching.
- All the band members rocking out and loving the Rexburg fans who were loving all the band members.
- My newish car (Wilhelmina das Auto) getting much better mileage than expected. I need to get out more.
- Seeing so many fans I recognized and care about, but wishing I could remember all the names that go with their friendly faces.
- The Saturday, June 4, 2016 David Archuleta Concert, rising like a bullet to the top of the charts.
As for Carolyn’s response to our two-day sensory overload? Total satisfaction (mine). It was a much needed and uplifting break for Carolyn who began to exhibit signs of early onset ODD before we left town. She was amazed by David’s vocal prowess and loved every minute of the music. She spent time writing down where to find videos and read fan blogs, eager to share it with two of her youngest granddaughters who live nearby. I would love to take full credit as her mentor, but truthfully, this is the kind of thing that happens when you get so close to magic.
Neither of us wanted the concerts to end, but sadly heard it coming each night when David began to sing his signature song, “Crush.” Eight bars into it, fans “stormed the stage,” which is not really an accurate description, as it was the politest stage storming I have ever witnessed, more like a slow and steady move to the front in a respectful expression of love and appreciation for what they had seen and heard. Fans swayed and sang, sentimental gestures to be sure. <sniff> Rexburg loves David Archuleta.
The encore treated us to three more numbers: a rousing “Nunca Pensé” (Cantar más canciones en español por favor.); David’s own “My Little Prayer;” and “Glorious,” the song beloved by this audience who soaked it up just like I do and knew every word.