Please don't stand so close to me

Historiann went to see Elvis Costello and the Imposters and The Police last night at Red Rocks.  (Photo by John Leyba for the Denver Post.)  This was my first show at that venue–it’s a gorgeous setting in a natural red rocks amphitheatre, very beautiful as the sun sets behind you and the lights of Denver appear.  I never went to any really big acts back in my youth in the 1980s and 1990s–I was more of a cult-band in a nightclub kind of person than an arena rock fan.  But, a very generous friend had a free ticket, and it was a great show.  Elvis performed a few of his newer songs, but mostly golden-oldies like “Watching the Detectives,” “Radio Radio,” and “Alison,” with a few of his quirkier old songs like “Beyond Belief.”  (I was hoping he’d play something from my favorite album of his, King of America, but no such luck.)  The Police performed their oldies too, completely without any of Sting’s solo act numbers.  It was interesting to be reminded, in their versions of “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” of when the band was more sonically connected to The Specials, English Beat, and other late 70s/early 80s British and Anglo-Caribbean ska band than they were to the emergent 80s power rock acts.  The Denver Post reviewed Monday night’s performance here yesterday, which turned out to be an exact prediction of the show we saw last night.

Aside from my first show at Red Rocks, it was also my first “nostalgia act” show.  Man, was it strange to be surrounded by old people at a rock concert!  The only shirtless young guys were in the parking lot outside of the venue hawking cans of beer and bottles of water.  The men inside the theatre kept their shirts on–thank goodness!–since most of them were in the 35-to-55 age range.  The men in the bands looked pretty good–or at least, no worse for the wear, since they’re all in their mid-fifties too.  The crowd looked like a giant twentieth or twenty-fifth high school reunion!  Sting was as handsome as ever, although he is manorexically thin and rather Alfred Packer-ish with a short, scruffy, gray beard that crept down his neck practically to his shirt.  Elvis looks pretty much as he did the last time I saw him, in Philadelphia in the summer of 1989:  pudgy, sweaty, and overdressed in a suit with a cravat, but his “new” band (which consists of his former “Attractions” bandmates Steve Nieve on the keyboard and Pete Thomas on drums, with Davey Faragher on the bass) was tight and fun.  It was especially great to see Elvis with Nieve, who ended the set with a flourishing homage to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Why the title “Please don’t stand so close to me” for this post?  Interestingly enough, after writing about men’s presumptions on women’s bodies, time, and space yesterday, I had a related real life experience.  Towards the end of the main set, Sting was setting up a call-and-response (one of those ay-oh, ee-yo-yo-yo things that he does) with the crowd.  I wasn’t really into singing along, but was swaying and enjoying myself.  Apparently, that was insufficient for the middle-aged stranger standing behind me in row 28, seat 98 or 99, who decided to reach over and rub his hands all over my neck, back, and shoulders, and admonish me to do better!  And, did I mention that I was wearing a mostly backless yoga top, because it was 100 degrees in Denver yesterday?  Eeeeeeeeewww!!!!!1111!!!!eleventy-ones!  It was made even creepier by the fact that this was during an extended version of one of those obsessive breakup songs (perhaps “Can’t Stand Losing You?”)  What made him think that that was appropriate behavior, aside from good, old-fashioned male privilege?  I know he was feeling the music and all excited, but please.  (And, his female companion/girlfriend/wife thought it was all in good fun, when I turned around in stunned horror to see who on earth was manhandling me!)  I’ve been in clubs where everyone was hot, sweaty, and jumping on each other’s feet all of the time, but this wasn’t one of those situations.  Well, I’m not a large person, nor am I a male person, and (I think this is key, too) I wasn’t with a man, but with a woman friend.  Ergo, random men think it’s OK to put their hands on my body?

If you know Historiann in real life, you know that although she’s a petite-ish woman, she’s not the kind of person who hugs new acquaintances (or even old ones!) or otherwise sends out vibes suggesting that its OK to touch her body.  Ugh.

0 thoughts on “Please don't stand so close to me

  1. Hi Historiann. Sorry about the manhandling. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised. I am interested in his “you can do better” line, which is part of the overall creepiness. What do you think he meant by that? He clearly just wanted to touch you–he didn’t care _how_ you danced–right?

    I went to a Raconteurs show [also predominantly a 30s and older crowd] in Denver recently, and I had a similar experience. I wasn’t dancing–I like to watch people like Jack White play the guitar and I was having fun doing that. So this woman my mom’s age behind me put her hands on my shoulders and started to move me in time with the music. Her boyfriend didn’t seem to mind, either. But how irritating! I guess I should have said something, but didn’t want to make a scene. Leave me the f- alone would have been a rude thing to say. But it’s strange that some people think that everyone has paid sixty bucks to sway, wave lighters, smoke, and yell “woo-hoo” in the same way. At these shows, we’re a bunch of lemmings as well as a bunch of misogynist pigs.


  2. Yuk–I’m sorry to hear that it happened to you, too. I’m sure part of this is “isn’t it cool we’re all here together enjoying this great band!” enthusiasm, but as you note, it’s intrusive. And, it’s interesting that both of our handlers are older than us–yours significantly older, mine only perhaps 5-10 years older. I’d be very interested if older people are being manhandled by signficantly younger people, but age is a category that’s clearly in play here. And BTW, I don’t think that “Leave me the f-alone” is rude–indeed, it seems that being emphatic about your dislike is warranted when dealing with such a rude intrusion on your person!

    What is it with these Denver rock fans that they can’t keep their hands to themselves? (And yes, he apparently found the sight of my back flesh too inticing not to sample–I don’t think his motivation was really as a song-and-dance instructor.) There were a few lighters in the audience, but most of the little lights in the audience were coming from people checking their Blackberries and I-Phones to see if the babysitter had called…


  3. Merkel should have said, “Leave me the f-alone!” (Although, her expression of surprise and disgust pretty much said the equivalent in every language!) Do people not have the YouTube in Denver? It would help them so very much in understanding what a jerkoff you are when you touch someone like that in public.


  4. Wow, so I wonder which “act” this el-creepo was mainly there to see, i.e., which group has the better grip–if that’s the word–on the molester demographic? Some folks and I got tickets for E. Costello back in ’94 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was an “older” crowd that showed up too, as in thirty-something stockbrokers on their way home from work at the London Stock Exchange. Toffs I think they call them, in expensive suits way too heavy for a very hot London summer. The only things they manhanded were their briefcases, which they didn’t put down as they stood awkwardly at their seats. Plus their cellphones, which were a rare signt on American streets in those days but becoming common in London. The whole thing kind of put a damper on my youngish English professor friends, who arrived that evening thinking “mosh pit.” This dyad is apparently touring together this summer. At least somebody on my U-listserv was just trying to sell tickets for both in Pittsburgh next week. The lister said that Elvis was “opening” for the PO-lice, though I’d put it the other way around. I think I’d rather see him in a smaller venue than them in an arena/stadium-type setup.


  5. p.s. On a happier note, Nieve was great that night. They have a huge organ better than the one at Wanamakers or at Irvine Auditorium in Philly, and he was allowed to use it. He’s a demon of a musician.


  6. Despite the manhandling, I’m mighty envious, as I’m one of those old farts who remember listening to both the Police and Elvis Costello in high school and had, gasp, eight-track tapes of them!


  7. Umm…not my photo, hubs–it’s copied from the linked review above! And I was in row 27, which is why el gropenator could reach down and fondle me. (I’ve inserted a photo credit now in the post–my bad.)

    KC: They put out 8-tracks? Wow!


  8. Yet another reason why the classic rock concert scene should be avoided at all costs.

    I saw The Police at an amazing show in 1990. Not long after Pinochet stepped aside they had the first really big rock concert in Santiago, Chile, where I was visiting for some months. It was an Amnesty International Concert in that horrible stadium where they tortured and killed people right after the CIA-backed coup. The audience was electrified — imagine living under a dictatorship that didn’t allow concerts. Sinead did a great set. So did the Chilean group Inti Illimani. All were very attuned to the context of their show. And then The Police closed with an awesome set.

    Not sure the aging Sting can hit the notes to Roxanne gracefully anymore — although he can still jump from the looks of the photo. I also suspect the concertgoers don’t share smoke the way they used to in the 70s and early 80s.


  9. Oh, there was some smoke being shared there, definitely! But your Police show sounds much, much cooler than this one.

    Sting seemed to be saving his voice for some of the songs that required the high notes–in some versions of songs other than “Roxanne,” he sang at a lower (and presumably more comfortable) pitch, which made me wonder if he was saving it up for “Roxanne,” which apparently he was, because that song was in one of the encores.


  10. I’m very twitchy about being touched in public, yet I am an avid live music goer. Consequently, I have embraced my hippie roots and dance like at a Dead show – lots of twirls and elbows. Nothing like *accidentally* planting an elbow in the gut of a creep who gets too close! I know, violence isn’t the answer, but I wasn’t being violent. I was just dancing enthusiastically 😉 That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


  11. Hi Zoe–good strategy. (I don’t see The Police as very good dance music, though many in the crowd clearly disagreed.)

    Also: does anyone else feel awkward about dancing in stadium seats? (That’s what Red Rocks has.) I guess I see dancing as more of a club show activity.


  12. I admit, I don’t like strangers touching me in public, or private. Nor do I like strangers talking close to my face. Nor do I like strangers stepping within my privacy zone, which I mark off with as an imaginary one foot circle around my body at all times. Nor do I like strangers sitting next to me on the bus when there are many more open seats.

    However, while preparing for my upcoming trip to Romania, all the guidebooks I’ve read suggest that privacy and personal space are practically none existent in the country. The author of Culture Smart! Romania writes, “Personal space in Romania is also much less valued than you may be used to, and often does not really exist as an idea at all.” Oy, the Culture Shock to come!

    I wonder why I, and others, have this ingrained desire to protect our privacy and personal space, and demand not to be touched.

    Historiann, I dance everywhere — clubs, stadiums, trains, airplanes, airports, buses, on tables, in seats, you name it, I dance there.


  13. I was amused by the comments on Sting’s aging voice – I am on a listserve with my high school graduating class (there are about 100 of us, about 1/3 of the class)- and just a day or so before your concert post, one of my friends who played guitar in a band in high school – wrote the following (I’m paraphrasing slightly since he seems to be on vacation and didn’t respond to my email about sharing his research):
    He was watching a YouTube of The Police on their current
    tour. Sting was singing So Lonely, and he thought, his voice sounds much lower than the original recording. So he checked out a 1978 video of the same song. Sure enough. In 1978 The Police played the song in the key of C (Guitar players can tell by watching Andy Summers’ guitar chords. The first chord in the verses and chorus is C). You can hear how high Sting’s voice is.
    > For the 2007 tour, they had lowered the key to G. Again, you can tell by watching Andy Summers’ guitar chords. Sting’s voice sounds much lower. The only reason they would have made the change is to accommodate Sting’s voice. He can’t reach the high notes anymore. So time affects even rock gods!


  14. Kathie–yep, and I should note that “So Lonely” was one of the encores (I think–it was at least towards the end of the set) he was saving it up for. The crowd went wild, when they weren’t checking in with home to see if the babysitter got their kids to bed on time…


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