Live Music is Back

Celeigh Cardinal comes on stage in a floor-length orange dress with billowing sleeves and a draping skirt. She looks stunning, but it’s when she opens her mouth to sing that the crowd is transfixed.

It’s been almost two years since I’ve seen live music, and with the first thud of the drums, bump of the bass, strum of the electric guitar and clang of the keyboard, I’m blinking back tears. I can already see my mother in front of me wiping at her eyes. At least I know where I get it from, I think to myself. Live performances always make us emotional.

Celeigh opens with my favourite song of hers, “Song by the Supermoon.” She introduces it as a song about her hometown, Grande Prairie, Alberta. Our table erupts in applause, and the rest of the audience looks at us curiously. We are, of course, far from GP—the concert is in the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, located in Deer Lake Park, Burnaby, British Columbia—but my family will always remember our roots (even if we never live there again).

“When I look to the west and I see the sunset,” Celeigh sings, “When I look to the east and see the long prairies… I am home.”

As the song ends, the crowd cheers enthusiastically, and I take the opportunity to glance around. The plain black theatre is relatively small, maybe the size of my 1,000-square-foot basement suite in East Vancouver. Ten round tables fill the room: five regular, five tall, with between one and four people seated around each. There are about 25 people watching live. Staff peek in from the sides and upstairs. More people watch from home via a livestream. It feels like an intimate living room concert. We are front-row, dead centre.

My family and I bop our heads and tap our feet along to “I Don’t Want to Know You Anymore,” “There Are Some Things We Will Never Do,” and “The Devil is a Blue-Eyed Man.” Celeigh says she’s not a very poetic songwriter, but I don’t think her lyrics are simple—they’re relatable. In the song “Easy for You,” written with the Brothers Landreth, she sings about having her back against the wall, searching for the exit signs, keys poised in her fist. Her voice is strong and powerful, as is her story. She talks about being an Indigenous woman without the normally accepted body type. Her struggles have brought her to where she is today, she says.

The concert falls on Orange Shirt Day, and, as it happens, the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. I spot orange shirts and buttons bearing the phrase, ‘Every Child Matters,’ in the audience.

 It’s a powerful performance. Sometimes, I close my eyes just to feel the beats and notes and cords reverberate through my body. It feels amazing to hear music created in front of me again.

Driving to the concert, I was excited to have an event to attend—a time and ticket for a show. It had been so long. For musicians and performers, I bet it’s felt even longer.

Driving home, I put on an old playlist and was transported back to the days I could travel, see shows, go to events and backpack freely. My heart hurt as I imagined Vancouver’s graffitied streets turning into Edinburgh’s rain-slicked cobblestone streets, passing castles instead of community centres. How I miss travel.

Music is a type of travel. It can transport you, connect with you, speak to you. It can bring you back in time, to your younger days, or remind you of a specific place or person. Closing my eyes and letting the music echo through my bones was therapeutic. Even if the genre isn’t your typical style, relish your next opportunity to listen to a talented band… live.

How are you travelling these days? Comment below!

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