In 1972, when Robert Elms was thirteen years old, he saw the Jackson Five play live at the Empire Pool. At some point during the performance, he describes experiencing three minutes of ‘divine delirium’ as he found himself in a state of otherworldly perfect synchronicity with everything happening around him. This single event would set him off on an endless pursuit for that same height of pleasure.
Since then, Robert has lived his life through live music, from pub rock to jazz funk, punk to country, and everything in between. Each gig is memorable in its own way, and his snapshots of musicians past and present are both evocative and startlingly concise: Tom Waits showboating with an umbrella, Grace Jones vogueing with a mannequin, Amy shimmying shamelessly like a little girl at a wedding, Gil Scott-Heron rapping with a conga drum. While in our changed times, Robert notes that we have found new ways of listening – of being part of something special by uniting fans with their favourite performers online – there is not, nor can there ever be, anything quite like the live experience.
Live! Why We Go Out is a memoir and a musing on why experiencing live music really matters.