Concerts ignite passion for music

This week 79-year-old Sen. Jesse Helms attended his first rock concert, a U2 show in the capital.

"People were moving back and forth like corn in the breeze," he said. "When Bono shook his hips, that crowd shook their hips."

My first concert came a lot earlier in life.

In my late teens, I moved from South Africa - a country few rock bands had dared to tour during the apartheid era - to England. I still recall the exhilaration of discovering that singer Robert Plant and blues guitarist Gary Moore would be playing British concerts within days of each other.

It was these two musicians who ignited my passion for music when, at the age of 12, I first heard them through a one-speaker radio (the best Christmas gift my parents gave me).

Over the past decade, I've traveled continents just to see Moore and Plant shows. But those first gigs remain special to me. I can still hear the clear tone of Gary Moore's guitar as his fingers performed the most elegant fretboard gymnastics. And I can still picture the sight of Robert Plant emerging from the darkness and letting out a Middle Eastern-style wail to introduce himself to the crowd.

The best artists ensure that no two shows are ever the same, which is why I would forgo anything to see a newly invigorated Eric Clapton play magical flurries of notes, or the chance to see U2 invite a fan on stage to play guitar.

On page 20, Suman Bandrapalli reports that summer rock tours seem to draw fans regardless of the economic climate.

I'm not surprised (I've just bought tickets for Radiohead - my eighth concert this summer). When a crowd's energy is transformed into musical inspiration, there is no better entertainment.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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