Column: Young couple in bad standing with elders

By SCOTT SAALMAN

Van Morrison was singing “Warm Love” at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville, Tennessee, last September, when the hate began.

You see, there was a couple, nay a young couple, nay a very young couple — I think the point is clear that I’m middle-aged — in the lawn section’s front row that decided to stand while Van sang one of his best love songs from the early ’70s.

Yes, you read right.

The. Couple. Stood. During. A. Concert.

Not just any concert, mind you. They stood during an old people’s concert.

Who did they think was on stage — Dave Matthews?

The nerve of them, those whippersnappers; their arms lovingly draped around each other’s waists in some kind of two-way, united hooliganism; their non-plastic hips swaying to the rhythm of a song written more than 20 years before their births.

“It’s warm love. It’s warm love,” Van sang.

How dare they, the dastardly duo!

It was as if the clueless carefree couple willingly chose to ignore the No. 1 old people concert rule: You don’t stand during the music, especially not in the lawn section where the Very Cheap, Very Old, Very Grouchy People planted their butts firmly in the grass — you know, way back there where I comfortably sat among a crop of aging Baby Boomers.

If only the youngsters had read the fine print on the back of their tickets, then they would’ve known about the no-standing rule. Surely the tiny print clearly stated that standing at a Van Morrison concert was strictly prohibited. I wouldn’t know. My eyesight was too poor to read it. I’m considering bifocals, baby!

So, while Van anointed downtown Nashville with his rich, holy voice and graceful growl, the two meddling kids two beach-blanketed rows ahead selected to stand, knowingly or unknowingly blocking the view of an angry AARP army regiment encamped directly behind them. My guess was they knowingly did this, those two concert terrorists. Just based on the smug way they stood above all the others who obediently sat, it was obvious they hated older generations.

“And it’s ever present everywhere, and it’s ever present everywhere,” Van sang.

My view of the stage wasn’t hindered. But the commotion created to my left was very distracting. Human hisses filled the air, followed by a chorus of “sit downs,” which was apparently loud enough for the couple to hear since they both looked back to see who was chanting daggers at them. Nonplussed, they turned back to the stage, remaining upright.

“It’s warm love, it’s warm love,” sang Van.

The scene reminded me of an SNL sketch with Chevy Chase and Phil Hartman that aired in 1992. They played husbands sitting with their wives at a concert — yes, it too featured Van Morrison — waxing nostalgic about music from back in their day (early ’70s). In front of them was a couple dismissively described by Chase’s wife, played by Julia Sweeney, as being “barely in their 20s.”

“What do they know about Van Morrison?” Chase sniffed.

During the sketch, Van Morrison’s name was announced and the young girl directly in front of Sweeney stood, screamed and danced a truly terrible white girl dance during “Moondance.” Sweeney, trying to get the girl to sit so she could see Van, said, “I don’t think people are supposed to be standing at this concert.” An argument ensued between the generations. I’m pretty sure I rooted for the young couple back then. But not now.

Twenty-five years later, in downtown Nashville, I watched life eerily imitate art.

When the hisses and chants proved ineffective, a man in his mid-60s stood and shared a heated exchange with the young guy. Several others stood from their blankets and low-sitting beach chairs to support the older guy, thus blocking the view for many others in the lawn section. The hardheaded young man remained defiant to the small mob that had formed around him.

“And it’s ever present everywhere, and it’s ever present everywhere,” sang Van.

The concert cops came. The young guy refused their offer to escort him from the scene. The girlfriend animatedly expressed her constitutional right to stand, further interfering with our enjoyment and prolonging the return of peace.

“It’s warm love, it’s warm love,” sang Van.

The young guy finally conceded. Flanked by four concert cops, he was whisked away to a holding cell or wherever it is they put the concert bad seeds. The lawn section people sat down and cheered, actually causing Van to look our way as he sang, “And it’s ever present everywhere, and it’s ever present everywhere.”

Stubbornly, the girlfriend remained standing. The hisses and boos restarted. The chant returned, “Sit down. Sit down.”

The girl turned toward them with a scornful look. She crossed her arms, as if suddenly in her own personal Tiananmen Square moment.

“It’s warm love, it’s warm love,” Van sang. “And it’s ever present everywhere, and it’s ever present everywhere.”

The whole incident marred my highly-anticipated Van Morrison experience. Four months later this display of youthful stubbornness is the only thing I clearly remember from that Nashville night. Well, that and a related thought I had while watching the rebellious young woman face the crowd with crossed arms: Bring. On. The. Tanks.

“It’s warm love, it’s warm love,” Van sang.

Chevy Chase was right. What do they know about Van Morrison?

Scott Saalman’s new collection of essays, “Mr. Serious,” can be purchased for $10 at Finishing Touches or Mad Batter Bakery in Jasper.




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