Interesting evening - I may never play this song again...
Background, some of which you’ve heard in this forum before: 3 ½ years ago, I was invited to perform at a reunion of my middle school (graduated in 1974). Now, I had been somewhat of a fifth wheel back then, and was surprised at the invitation. The woman organizing the reunion told me that she had talked it over with the guys in the band (all of whom had been classmates), knew my reticence about even coming to the reunion, let alone performing, knew also that I was pretty good at both singing and playing bass, and assured me that at worst I would have an opportunity to spit in the faces of the people who had treated me so badly growing up. We worked out a five-song set.
Coupled with my nerves at attending this gathering was that the day before the event, my wife and I decided we had some issues in our marriage to work on, and she asked me to move out. Needless to say, I felt a bit anchorless and confused. I went to the party expecting the worst – and wound up having a pretty amazing social evening. Everyone was so nice. More confusion - were these the same a******s I'd grown up with? The band did a few semi-acoustic songs as a quartet and then brought me up. Nice reception. MORE confusion on my part - I really was getting a Twilight Zone feeling from the whole thing. Looked up a couple of times, expecting the bucket of blood to come pouring down. Never happened, of course. The first couple of songs – “The Weight” and “Comfortably Numb” – went down well enough. It was the third song – the Eagles’ “Take It To The Limit” – where all hell broke loose. I was singing it (in the key of G rather than the original’s B, which is too high for me) and thinking about my wife, and I guess I put a lot more emotion into it than the previous songs (someone who was there who I've known since second grade described it as "frightening - watching someone I've known my whole life, standing naked [figuratively] in front of me and plunging daggers into his own heart"). When I went after the lengthy falsetto note at the end of the song, my eyes were pressed tightly shut. When I opened them again, I saw a club in pandemonium. Fist-pumping, cheering, women I’d had crushes on when I was younger in floods of tears, and an ovation that seemed to go on forever. Even my bandmates were applauding. I can’t say I was comfortable with it all, because in my mind I was missing my wife and singing the song to her. Some people told me later they thought I was singing the song to them. I wanted to cry a bit myself, but I had to try to stay "professional", but all I was looking for was the onstage escape hatch. In the midst of a crowd, I felt completely alone. The last two songs – “Summertime Blues” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – were almost anti-climactic.
I’d like to say that I chose two of the best-looking women, brought them home and gave a private performance, but I’d be lying if I said that. I went home alone that night. However, I DID get back in touch with folks I’d thought were out of my life forever. The people from my memory actually became FRIENDS, who I saw socially. My separation from my wife was mercifully brief - less than a month. Things worked out…
Jump ahead to the present day. In February, a notice appeared on social media that another large get-together was planned for early October. Since this was (approximately) the 40th anniversary of our graduating class, the organizers wanted it to be the biggest blowout of all time. Same club, same organizer(s), same band as the one in 2010 – and the first posting about the party was “Will Mike be singing ‘Take It To The Limit’ again?” And the second. And the third. And every week, it seemed, someone was asking the question.
The band members met for the first time in March to discuss what we would play. We had to prepare a rather lengthy set. Not a problem for two guitars, bass, keyboards, drums (all of whom would be singing lead at one time or another) plus a female vocalist who would guest on a few songs. The problem was, I was adamantly AGAINST doing “Take It To The Limit” because of the memories it would bring back for me. I'd had so many issues the last time around, I just wanted to have fun at this gig and not dredge up my awful past again. My bandmates were persistent, reminding me of how many people were accepting the party invite (we would ultimately have over three times as many people as had attended the first event - over 200) and asking about that particular song. Besides, they reasoned, now that the demons from my past had been slain, as it were, and my wife and I were back together and had just marked a milestone anniversary, I should think of the song as celebratory. I finally relented, on condition that we do the song as the encore and that I had the right to dump the song at my own discretion.
So now, last night. From the moment we hit the stage, the audience was singing, first softly but progressively louder as the night went on, “take it… to the limit… one more time” between numbers. The band was really rocking the place, but it seemed like there was only one song the audience was interested in. Our guest singer and I even did some hambone stuff, sharing the microphone and the like. "Take it... to the limit... one more time" between numbers. I even jokingly announced a couple of times “do one of you guys want to come up here and sing the damn song? That may be the only way you’re gonna hear it tonight!” Laughter, and more singing. We’d even built into the set a little teaser for the audience. At one point, we started playing “Take It To The Limit” (to thunderous applause), but instead I sang a couple of lines from Bill Withers' “Lean On Me”, which has a similar chord structure. A genuine wave of laughter from the audience as we stopped, then I said “NOW are you guys going to stop?” More laughter. More applause. More singing.
But the vibe was different this time. There was a lot of love in the room. We all felt it. Unlike the last time when I felt so out of place, this time I felt the warm embrace of these people I shared a past with. And yes, this time I felt like I SHARED it.
We finished our set with a rousing version of “Comfortably Numb”, then huddled at the side of the stage. The audience was still singing “Limit” and my BL, Jed, said “look, Mike, you can’t get away from it. They want the song.” I just shook my head and laughed, “awww, f*** it.” We went back out, and I announced "Give the folks what they want, I guess." The second we started playing TITTL, the club erupted. I was never big with the girls back in the day, but last night, the ladies DASHED to the stage front and my side in particular. I know I sang most of the song with a big goofy grin on my face. The audience was louder than we were in places. As in 2010, when I hit the falsetto note, the club absolutely shook from the cheering and applause. We could barely hear ourselves as we finished the song and the set. It's almost six hours now, but my ears are still ringing. As we took our stage bow, Jed said to me "money in the bank, that friggin' song!" This time, however, I was actually able to enjoy it. A magical evening, full of warmth and camaraderie. I know I won’t soon forget it.
As an added plus, my wife was awake to hear all about it when I got home...
Oh, here’s the set we played. You get the idea that we were going for the flavor of a 1970’s stoner party, since all of the attendees were 54, give or take 4 years:
Kashmir (Led Zeppelin)
Baba O’Riley (Who)
Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Stones)
Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple)
Midnight Rider (Allmans)>>
Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker)
The Weight (Band)
Paperback Writer (Beatles)
I Saw Her Standing There>Long Tall Sally (Beatles)
Silver Springs (Fleetwood Mac) (guest female vocalist)
The Chain (Fleetwood Mac) (guest female vocalist)
Scarlet Begonias (Grateful Dead) (guest female vocalist)>
I Know You Rider (Grateful Dead)
Take It To The Limit/Lean On Me (false start)
Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
Up On Cripple Creek (Band)
White Room (Cream)
My Generation>See Me, Feel Me>Listening To You (Who)
Won’t Get Fooled Again (Who)
Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
Take It To The Limit (Eagles)
Once you are emotionally invested in a song, that song is part of you. You should sing it any time people want to hear it, and be thankful people want to hear you perform. If it takes you somewhere emotionally, then be glad you are alive. Dead people don't have emotions.
Good for you,man. Sometimes things happen for a reason...
Awesome story! Too bad your wife didn't see it.
Outstanding story. I loved every second of it.
Yup, great story ! And, great set list. Right up my alley. :D
Why wasn't your wife THERE?
Randy Meisner didnt like singing that song, so the Eagles FIRED him!
Moral of the story? NEVER refuse "take it to the limit" or timothy b schmitt will get BOTH your gigs!
What a beautiful read that was.
Your set list is my kind of list. I wish I was there to see it!
Great story! Thanks for sharing.
I agree that once you find a (or a few) signature song(s) that you perform well and the crowd wants to hear, make the most of them. Those songs will never get old or stale.
Thank you for your indulgence,
My wife didn't attend because she didn't go to our middle school. As a rule, people don't bring their spouses to these neighborhood events. My wife has met many of my friends from that group. In fact, before our separation, she encouraged me to go to the original event. Her feeling was "you'll lose nothing. You'll play, which you love doing, and you won't spend the rest of your life wondering if you SHOULD have gone." When our separation ended and I finally got to tell her what had gone down, she told me she wasn't surprised. She's my harshest critic, but at the same time my biggest fan. It's what I love about her.
I don't quite think that Don Felder will be a guest guitarist with them anytime soon.
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