November 6, 2018

String Theory: Louisville

title photo credit: @hfrees

The Louisville Scream String Theory show was my last Hanson show of 2018. I flew in the day of the show and spent a whole 27 hours in Kentucky (and about two hours in Indiana for lunch just to knock a new state off my list). I booked a random Priceline hotel that ended up being right on the Ohio river. As I was admiring the view from our 14th story window, my friend Holly pointed at the walkway below and said "That's where the halfway speech was." I had no idea what she was talking about at first, but then I saw the flags and I understood. I had the vaguest memory of trying to stand on the base of one of those flag poles ten years before to get a glimpse of Hanson during a walk. Even standing on it, I could barely see Taylor's head. That was my ~8th Hanson show and I was a broke college student, completely exhausted from having driven overnight and "camped" for about 2 hours of sleep. It was kind of surreal being in the same place and seeing it from a totally different perspective a decade later. It's funny how much and how little can change over time. In the major plus column: 2018 Louisville included real beds, a flight instead of driving, the option to lounge in a hotel room and have Starbucks delivered right to your door, and front row without ever setting foot in a line. It turns out being older and lazier doesn't suck entirely.

This show opened with a lot of unnecessary screaming. People shouted straight through all three guys trying to talk about the meaning of the show, and they had to stop talking and tell everyone to "get it out of [their] system" more than once. Zac made a pretty pointed comment after one bout of random screaming and said "Well, you'd think 26 years had passed..." and then suggested that everyone try to listen to the show "as if you were listening to your favorite album." They used key words like "sit" and "listen" multiple times, and it was pretty obvious to me that they were silently begging us to sit down and STFU for lack of a better term. For my first draft of this post I had this whole spiel written out about the importance of reading between the lines when it comes to understanding what behavior Hanson wants to see from us this tour. I was prepared for some to say "But Holly, you don't really know what Hanson wants. This is all your personal opinion. They love to see energy in the crowd and people staying seated and quiet is stuffy and disrespectful." With all the cues and hints they've been dropping at every show, I'd consider that perspective borderline willful ignorance at this point.

But that was yesterday. Today, Zac shared his own blog post called "How to Fanson @ String Theory," and now I don't have to convince anyone to read between the lines; just read the actual, literal lines that have now been provided for us. I know it probably seems like I'm preaching to the choir, and Zac, too, since how many of the screamers and rebellious standers are really keeping up with blog posts? But I promise, some of the fervently nodding choir members have been misbehaving too, and most will probably find an excuse for it not to apply to them specifically. It applies to all of us, though. These guys work so hard to be recognized for their music and talent, and to scream while they talk and shout for attention during songs, or to stand when no one else does and make it so that others can't see or hear is to undermine their skill. And that's a shame, because they deserve every ounce of respect that they don't always get, especially from their own fans.

There were outbursts here and there throughout the show, but it didn't get as bad as I anticipated after the rough start. Hanson soldiered on and put on a great show that we probably didn't deserve. The orchestra was much smaller than at the other stops on this tour (a friend counted a total of 21 orchestra members), but they made the most of it and the sound was full enough that I didn't notice a big difference. There was a speaker directly in my face, though, so a lot of the finer details were probably lost on me this time anyway. I did kind of an out of character thing for this one and bought a single ticket for myself and enjoyed this show from front row just slightly left of center surrounded by strangers. It was my "best" seat all tour by normal show standards, but I stand by what I said in my last post. It was just a bit too close and wouldn't have given me a full show experience if it was my only opportunity to see String Theory. I could see Hanson just fine, but the extent of my view of the orchestra was an unfortunate waist-down perspective of a single violin player from underneath the piano. I'll always take front row violin crotch over sitting behind Standy McTayfan, though.

I tried hard to think about all of the best parts of the show as they happened and to take it all in for the last time this year. I walked away knowing I'd miss the special treatment that only an orchestra could provide for songs like "Siren Call" and "No Rest for the Weary" (which has a very catchy string part that reminds me of "Bittersweet Symphony" that is forever stuck in my head). I tried for the millionth time to remember more lyrics from "Battlecry," but I'll just have to wait for the lyric book to finally learn it for myself. "Tonight" is the one that managed to make me feel something every single night I heard it. It never fails to be a powerful reminder that we just don't know what life is going to throw at us, good or bad. And while I initially felt like "Feeling Alive" was missing from the final songs, I've come to realize that I think "Feeling Alive" would've created a more "happily ever after" ending than the story they're trying to tell. Instead, "Tonight" says be happy right now because right now is all we have for sure. A few shows in, I questioned for a moment if I really needed to see so many performances of an identical set. But then I remember that while I can hopefully see Hanson for years to come, String Theory has a much shorter shelf life, and the answer is a solid yes. See it tonight.

The String Theory tour as a whole has been a fun and very different experience from past Hanson tours for me. I did eight shows over four months, but never more than two in a single trip. I swear it was somehow more exhausting than doing eight shows back to back in ten days, and if I have to pack another liquids bag any time soon I may boycott shampoo. I loved not having an opener for the second tour in a row, but good luck to Hanson ever trying to bring one back now that we're all spoiled and used to sitting in comfy seats while we wait. It was harder to meet the band this tour, which mostly just reminds me how spoiled and lucky we've become. The fact that Hanson is literally playing two shows a day to rehearse with each orchestra and are still making time to increase M&Gs and occasionally greet fans afterwards speaks volumes about their work ethic. I have no idea how they do it all. After eight more or less identical shows, I kind of can't wait for the next "normal" show where I can jump and clap and be surprised by the setlist, but I'm also hesitant to let this one go when the time comes. I'll enjoy it while it lasts and look forward to what's next. Australia, anyone?

Until then, enjoy String Theory, break out Finally It's Christmas, and if you have any questions left about "How to Fanson at String Theory" after Zac's guide, you can always see the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for some light reading about How to Behave and Why.


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