Music Is My Oxygen: Tim Minchin

Sometimes, a concert makes you laugh. Sometimes, it makes you cry. Some make you think. Others make you feel.

The best do it all.

A Tim Minchin show does it at warp speed. It’s the emotional equivalent of whiplash.

And it’s absolutely fucking brilliant.

I first heard of Tim Minchin on Hemant Mehta’s excellent blog, Friendly Atheist. I’m pretty sure he was mentioned in an article or two, but it was the comments section that really brought him to my attention. His videos often get looped into conversations, usually in an, “He said it better than I ever could,” kind of way. But I had an old computer that didn’t play videos well, so I never clicked on any of those links.

Then, about five years ago, I got a new computer, so I did. And boy, am I ever glad.

The first of those links I clicked was for the genius Thank You God, a song that Ron has described as, “Sarcasm so thick you could park a dump truck on it,” and that I subsequently listened to non-stop on my commute for over a week to learn the insanely complex lyrics. It was one hell of an introduction to Tim Minchin’s music, and after listening to it, I couldn’t click on links fast enough – The Pope Song, Prejudice, Rock and Roll Nerd. I pretty much inhaled his entire catalogue in one sitting. In the course of a day, he went from someone I’d vaguely heard of, to the top of my Music Bucket List.

A couple of years ago, when he announced a tour, I really, really wanted to go. But it was only in Australia and the UK, and I’m in Canada, and while I will certainly travel for music, Ron and I already had tickets for Wacken Open Air in Germany for the summer of 2020, which would mean two big trips in less than a year.

I came close to talking myself out of going. I often do that to myself – there’s always a reason to not do something, and if I can find it, I’ll run with it. But only a year earlier, I’d promised myself I was going to stop self-sabotaging when it came to concerts. See, I’d once had the opportunity to see Linkin Park but didn’t, for reasons. None of them were particularly good ones, but the worst of the bunch was that, “There’ll always be another chance to see them.” Like many fans, I was devastated with their lead singer, Chester Bennington, took his own life. What I chose to learn from it was that life is too fragile to wait for the next time.

The first time I put that new philosophy into practice was when I decided to order tickets for Tim Minchin “anyway.” Much as I’d love to have seen him in Australia, that simply wasn’t in the cards. I decided on London, primarily because it’s possible to fly there direct from Halifax year-round, which would cut down on costs.

I even registered as a Verified Fan with Ticketmaster in advance, which would give me access to presale tickets, at 6am local time – although in true Ticketmaster fashion, they never sent me the link, so I had to wait for tickets to go on sale to the general public the following day. Because of Ticketmaster’s screw-up, along with my work schedule meaning I wouldn’t have access to a computer until after the general public tickets had been on sale for at least an hour, I figured my chances of scoring some were slim.

I was wrong.

Okay, I didn’t score them, personally. No, when I got home from work that morning, Ron was still home. Seeing his truck still in the driveway startled me, as he’d normally have already left for work, and I became concerned he was sick. But as I parked my car, I saw him in the kitchen, in his work clothes, and went from concerned to confused. It wasn’t until I got inside and saw this sitting on the kitchen counter that I understood.

Yep. Ron had told his boss he’d be late, and gone on Ticketmaster the minute tickets went on sale. At one point, he had four separate windows open, moving farther afield from London when he realized that wasn’t going to happen, eventually getting seats in Edinburgh. Excellent ones.

“Settle,” he said. Ha!

After more than a year of low-grade, sustained anticipation, spiked by things like the arrival of the tickets in the mail and the booking of flights and hotels, I was wired by the night of the show. Ron was … bemused, I think is the right word, watching me all but bounce in my seat at the theatre pub before the doors opened. And when the doors did open, he didn’t try to hold me back as I raced down the aisle to find our excellent seats, with a clear line-of-sight, and all the leg room you could want.

That leg room was a good thing in many ways. Because the third song of the night was Thank You God. It was the song I most hoped to hear, and I was so excited that partway through, Ron tapped me on the arm. I looked back at him, then realized that I was, indeed, looking back at him. In my excitement, I was perched at the very front of my seat, my butt barely touching it, leaning forward as far as I could, elbows on my knees, staring intently at Tim’s hands while he played. Were it not for that extra space, I might have started climbing over the rows in front of me in my excitement. As it was, Ron gently motioned for me to sit back, so I did.

I laughed a lot that night. And I cried some. And I thought, and I felt, as well.

I had no idea at the time that this would be the last live concert I’d see for years. How many years? Who knows? Right now, Wacken is slated to go ahead in the summer of 2021, but I’m not holding my breath. And since I’m a dinosaur who’s not comfortable with the whole online … thing, I’ve not been filling in that empty space with the streamed shows many bands have been turning to.

Until this morning.

As part of the release of Minchin’s Apart Together, there was a worldwide stream of a live performance of the entire album. Once again, I almost talked myself out of it: I don’t like online shows, overnight shifts and a messed-up sleep schedule meant there wasn’t a really good time to watch it, I have the CD on order and it will be here in a few days.

At the bottom of it all, though, lay the fact that I’ve been struggling for the last six weeks. I’ve seen the signs – disconnection, excessive sleep, intrusive thoughts. I knew I needed to break the cycle, but nothing seemed to be worth the effort.

Except maybe – just maybe – a little dose of Tim Minchin.

That’s how, after a very long night shift and a very short sleep, I found myself having beer and cheese for breakfast – sorry Tim, but I just can’t do wine – sitting on the living room floor in my concert t-shirt, watching my first ever live stream show.

And yes, I laughed and cried and thought. But more than anything, I felt. My fuck, I felt. Waking up from a bad dream, a veil being lifted from my eyes, the sun coming out after a storm Рpick your clich̩, I lived it.

Clichés, however, exist for a reason. There’s one about music, too. It says it, “has charms to soothe the savage breast.” And while my breast hasn’t been savage, exactly, it has been pretty hollow.

It’s nice to have it filled up again, even for a little while.

To read more posts in the “Music Is My Oxygen” series, click here.

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