We almost didn't go. I had purchased the tickets - and not just "a ticket" but an entire experience - months ago but work matters had intervened and I had told the Intrepid Junior Blogger that sadly we could not attend the Imagine Dragons concert in Edmonton. She was understanding, if disappointed, but she was even more surprised when suddenly this week the clouds parted and it became not only clear that we could go but should go, an opportunity for a small road trip before the summer and a break before our lives step into very high gear for awhile. And so, on rather short notice, we threw some things into a suitcase and hit the highway, travelling a few hours down south to make a memory.
As we waited in the line-ups, first to check in for our VIP experience and then to meet the band, the IJB was remarkably calm. She doesn't get excited about much, approaching life with a degree of calm I wish I could emulate. She isn't much of a hero worshipper or fan girl, either, generally unimpressed by fame or fortune. Much like her mother, though, she struggles to live in the moment, always thinking about the next class, the next exam, the next phase of her life. Her outward calm hides her constantly working mind, one that is relentless in conjuring up expectations and creating often unanswerable questions. It is a pattern I know far too well.
As we waited we both noted how terrific the staff were at Rexall Place, and how calm they seemed to be too, the flow of these events honed over the years and dozens of concerts just like this one.
But for the IJB this wasn't just another concert. This was her first stadium concert, different from the small concerts of 1500 or so fans she had attended before. As someone who cut her teeth on huge concerts in the late 1980's featuring bands like New Order, Psychedelic Furs and Echo and the Bunnymen, I knew how special that first concert is, and how it sets the tone for your expectations of those in the future. I knew how concerts are one of the rare times when you can set aside all other thoughts - the pounding music and bright lights making it almost impossible to do otherwise - and live purely in the moment. But I also knew not all concerts are like that, some instead lacklustre affairs with disengaged performers there to earn a paycheque and disinterested in their audience. As someone who had spent years with musicians I knew the magic that happens when audience and artist connect, feeding their energy to each other and leading to one of those heart-stopping moments of perfection. I also knew this was unpredictable and elusive, and one never knows when it will happen...and now I know it happened last night, and the IJB was there not just to see it but be part of it.
In our brief moment with the band we discovered a group of four young men who were kind and gentle, calling the IJB sweetheart, telling us how much they love Alberta and how happy they were to be there last night. One could think these were just hollow words, rehearsed and insincere, but we didn't doubt their authenticity as they were delivered in such a seemingly heartfelt manner it erased all doubt. And once they stepped on the stage any doubts of their love for what they do, of their genuine affection for their fans, of their pure joy in being there, disappeared in a puff of smoke.
There are so many things one could say about the Smoke and Mirrors tour. Opening act Halsey was intriguing, particularly her reference to the Pride Parade held in Edmonton the very day she was performing for us. I was delighted to finally see Metric perform, a band I have loved for a long time and had been anxious to see live - but it was the Imagine Dragons who owned the stage and the audience from the moment they walked out.
The stage set was unbelievable, the remarkable column-like screens creating a unique backdrop for every single song. Watching them move and shift, watching them become not just part of the set but part of the narrative of the songs, was astonishing - but even without the stage I believe it would have been an incredibly special moment.
There were points when it was incredibly beautiful, when Rexall Place was lit up by the tiny lights from thousands of cell phones floating in the dark like little fireflies. Decades ago we held up lighters, and every time I see this I feel that flashback to the past and I know how much the world has changed - and how much it has stayed the same.
There were points when there was laughter, and points where there was nothing but the sound of thousands of voices - including mine - singing the lyrics we know by heart.
For me though the special moments were when I would look at the IJB and see her, eyes closed, singing along and knowing every word, and completely and entirely living in the moment. It is so rare to live in the moment now, in a world filled with distraction and information rushing at us from every angle. It is a gift of the most precious sort to live in the moment, one we often struggle to find.
It would be an unkind understatement to say they brought down the house. They did so much more, leaving it all on the stage as good artists do, connecting with an audience of thousands and yet I suspect making each person feel like they had connected with them personally. When they played their encore - after the crowd erupted into cheers when they left the stage the first time - huge glittery leaves rained down on the crowd, creating a moment that was not only beautiful but magical, and one I managed to catch on camera.
There are some firsts in life. You can only ever have one first kiss, one first lover, and one first concert like this. You never know how those "firsts" will unfold, and how they will shape your memories. Last night I had the honour of being there as my daughter experienced her first stadium concert, and I saw in her face the kind of our joy and abandon a live music experience should bring.
As we left the stadium with the crowds around us and walked towards our car, the sky now dark and the city lights bright, she said: "I don't know what it is but concerts like that just make you feel like you don't give a damn about anything else."
All I could do was smile, because that's exactly how I wanted her to feel. That feeling is called "living in the moment" and last night, thanks to a band called Imagine Dragons, we did.