14th Sep 2009

On unexpected pleasure: Paolo Nutini, Arctic Monkeys, and Ewan MacGregor

I’ve known for some months that Paolo Nutini would be playing at Oakland’s Fox Theater this month; the Spawn made sure of that! She is a huge fan and has been for several years. Two years ago, her first “grown-up” adventure involved travelling to San Francisco with a friend on the train to see Paolo perform at the Warfield and then staying overnight in a hotel. (It probably wasn’t as much as an adventure for Lucy, her friend, as she was visiting from Germany at the time…alone.)

Those months of “Squeeeee! Paolo’s coming!” prepared me for the inevitable request for ticket money, gas money, spending money, blah blah. (<sarcasm>Thank you, Uncle Sam, for withholding our work permits, thus denying me the opportunity to teach my child fiscal responsibility by having her pay for her own adventures.</sarcasm>) Kathleen searched high and low for a companion for the event but ran into two problems:

  1. not many of her friends knew who Paolo Nutini was, and
  2. of those who did know and love him, they had to work!

And so I found myself in the odd position of either denying the Spawn her heart’s desire (and thus thoroughly crushing her spirit) or accompanying her to the concert. Normally, I wouldn’t be averse to the whole spirit crushing thing but, as I don’t mind Paolo myself, I thought I’d be the hero (read: Mum the Martyr) and go with her to the event. Never let it be said that I’d pass up an opportunity to squirrel away a little capital in the Emotional Blackmail Bank.

Last week, my thoughts were filled with complaints about the upcoming trip to Oakland.

I’ll have to stand all night in front of the speakers and then I’ll have no hearing left. My hearing might never come back; I’d be deaf. Forever. I asked Kathleen if I should take some earplugs with me. The look on her face said it all…”if you put earplugs in and people see it and then know that we’re together, you’re walking home.”

My feet would be sore from standing all night. What if my Achilles tendons started to act up? I’d never walk again!

I’d be the oldest person there! I’d be trapped all night, deaf, with sore feet, standing in a sea of screaming groupie girls and UNABLE TO WALK AWAY.

Saturday afternoon finally arrived and, despite my internal whinging, I put on a brave face and Kathleen and I headed off to Oakland. We took our time getting there, stopping for a bite in Fairfield and then for gas and cash in Cordelia. Kathleen was getting more and more excited as we drove on and the drive from the Carquinez Bridge to Oakland was spent singing along, loudly, happily, and badly, with Arctic Monkeys.

Finally, we were in Oakland! And there was the theatre!

Fox Oakland

At this point, I started to perk up. Why?

Well, first of all, it was cold enough in Oakland that I could actually wear my newly-knitted Zetor scarf/shawl and, more importantly, the woman ahead of us in the line had a good 15 years on me. I wouldn’t be the oldest one there!

At this point, I was feeling somewhat better about life in general and kept eyeing the marquee:


“The ride in hadn’t been so bad. Maybe we should come back on Wednesday for the Arctic Monkeys’ show…”

Things continued to improve as we entered the theatre. After zooming to a spot in front of the stage, Kathleen looked at me and said “I’d be okay with sitting at one of those tables.”

Just behind the railing enclosing the orchestra pit stood tall bar tables with tall bar stools. Except that, unlike most bar stools, these ones were padded. And had backs.


The theatre itself was beautiful and, as it began to fill, I noticed the oddest thing: the average age of the concertgoers seemed to be in the mid-30s. There were even people who were visibly older than I am. I might actually enjoy the evening!

Paolo’s opening act, Anya Marina, came on and, although I didn’t get too excited over her music (a little too Rickie Lee Jones for me) she was really really funny. Especially when she asked the groupie girls waving the Brazilian flag at the very front of the pit if it were true that all Brazilians liked anal sex. (Yeah, I confess to feeling a little schadenfreude at the expense of the SYTs. I’m middle-aged and that’s allowed now, right?)

Soon enough, it was time for the man-boy himself:


I have recently found myself thinking that Paolo was going all Ernest Hemingway on us; after seeing any and all of his performances on TV or YouTube, I couldn’t help but think he was becoming a caricature of an old blues singer. You know, performing with an “I seen troubles” sort of aura…and I couldn’t help but snort at it. I mean, the lad’s what? 22? 23? How many troubles could he have seen?

I’ve got to say though, after seeing him live, he really does pull it off. His performance didn’t strike me as being affected in any manner and I found myself singing along, screaming when the moment called for it, and generally having a damn good time.

It was truly an unexpected pleasure.

The concert ended right around 10:30 with Last Request. Kathleen and I sang along and tried our best to carry the chorus but, without the rest of the lumps singing with us, Paolo was forced to sing the whole thing. (Don’t these people from Oakland know anything? Second chorus of Last Request is ALWAYS audience participation time! Don’t just stand there…sing, dammit!)

The drive home was long and tiring and Kathleen’s eyes were getting sore from the headlights. As we got closer to our home exit, Kathleen asked me to find something on her iPod to help her stay alert. First up, Mardy Bum…that got us to the exit but we still needed something for the last 5 miles. I knew it had to be something guaranteed to perk her up, a catchy tune, maybe with a bit of humour in it. I found it quickly: The Fray, covering Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie. (For those who aren’t familiar with it, this is where the Ewan MacGregor reference comes into play. Go listen.)

All in all, I had a wonderful, wonderful evening.

Along with the unexpected pleasures of not feeling out of place, finding a comfortable chair with a great view, listening to some truly fabulous music, I had the not-so-unexpected-but-always-thrilling pleasure of seeing my child very, very happy:

Happy Kat

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