Out the back, there is no Dressing Room as such.
There are a couple of disused offices with chairs stacked against the walls.
I ponder the set list on the chair in front of me, and turn away from it to write the words “LONE VOICE” on the wall with the biro I am using for the set list.
From outside, I can hear the faint strains of a car stereo at the traffic lights.
It’s blaring The Last Time, by The Rolling Stones.
I wonder who could possibly be playing that song at those traffic lights, and entertain a fantasy of them crashing and staggering out of the burning wreckage of the car, while a crowd of children gathers to dance around the accident site.
I glance at my phone and realise I‘ve left the walkman on.
It’s playing Still Ill by The Smiths.
The PA in the hall is playing Band On The Run, which reminds me what Alan Partridge called Wings: “The band The Beatles could’ve been.”
I wish I could remember how to play it.
I wonder if I look sad, like people often tell me I do. Oh, I think, if only they knew the rushing tumult just below the still surface of these waters.
Then I laugh.
“They do know”, I say out loud, to myself, “They mostly don’t give a shit.”
And, this time, silently to myself: “I’vegotsomuchtosayhowwillIsayitallatonceifonlyIcouldstopthinkingofseventeenwaystosaythesamethingandtryingtogeteverysinglethoughtoutofmyheadandintoamicrophoneI’dbeabetterwriterandmaybeabetterperson.”
I steel myself.
I am tired, but excited.
This could be the last time. This could be the last time.
Maybe the last time, I don’t know….
You are not yourself.
If you were honest, you would most like to play
How To Disappear Completely.
You are not honest.
(And, you note bitterly,
It would be far too close to the bone)
Walking onstage, you are dismayed to see
A man at the back of the room scribbling notes.
You have never felt so alone, so desolate.
You shrug your shoulders and get on with it.
Even as you sing the words, you are not sure they are true.
If you were honest, you would admit
That they are definitely not true.
The applause confuses you:
What do these people want?
You would dearly love to be a lone voice, but
Someone is singing along.
No wonder you’re happy and sad all at the same time.
The house lights fade and a man shuffles into the spotlight.
He is shorter than he looks.
He begins stridently, making prolonged eye contact with a man in the front row:
“I decree today that life is simply taking and not giving; England is mine, and it owes me a living.”
He then launches into “a song about death.”
“If anyone can guess the last song I heard before I came out here, they can have a free album.”
This gets a muted response from the audience, which gets a shrugging-shouldered response from the man on stage.
He starts to sing (or is he rapping?)
Looking around the room, it seems that many people here are not sure when he is joking and when, if ever, he is serious.
Just when he has the attention of the whole audience, he seems to switch on them, fixing the room with a cold, almost doleful stare, asking:
“Do you know what it is to be happy and sad at the same time?”
A lone voice cries out in the wilderness of the darkened room, with a cheer that trails off, as if it had expected others to join in.
“Then this one’s for YOU.”
And he plays “another song about death.”
The lone voice cheers again, and everyone laughs.
The man on stage is walking a thin line between diffident self-consciousness and self-important arrogance. He is at once genial and aloof, though the ideas he expresses are considered, the audience responds more to his apparent (affected?) melancholia.
It’s quite entertaining.
As Oscar Wilde wrote, “It is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought.”
When the performance is over, he walks offstage and is friendly and thankful for the kind comments he receives.
It’s all an act.