March 21, 2019

String Theory: The Sydney Opera House

The Shows
Australia might have been on my own personal bucket list, but I think the Sydney Opera House was bucket list material for all of us. It's one of the most iconic buildings in the world with a rich history in music, and Hanson managed to sell it out in just over a day. Pair its reputation with the throwback video Hanson shared of themselves singing a capella on the same stage over 20 years ago, and the nostalgia and pride were enough to make more than a few people jump on a plane. I'm happy to say it lived up to every elevated expectation. Melbourne may have been my favorite city, but Sydney...Sydney definitely wins for the best show.

Before tickets went on sale, I couldn't help but think how it would be a dream come true to not only see Hanson at the Sydney Opera House, but to experience it from the front row. I knew the demand would be high and tried to tell myself that I'd be lucky to sit in any seat and not to get my hopes up. The pre-sale was a mess and seemed to be giving people random seats all over the venue, but by some miracle, I pulled up front row tickets just two seats off from dead center. I could not believe my luck, and I found myself double and triple checking the seating chart and confirmation email, sure that it was somehow too good to be true. (Side note: Melbourne was the weird anomaly of the tour where the Stalls section was in the back. I knew I would screw this up. I even wrote a note to myself in all caps and stuck it right next to the Melbourne presale link: "DO NOT BUY STALLS." What did I buy? Stalls Row A. You can understand my hesitancy to believe that the Stalls Row A seats I bought for Sydney were actually right).

When the second show was announced, I told myself I didn't care what seat I got and that anywhere further back would be fine because I already found my golden ticket, and I didn't actually need the whole Chocolate factory. And then it was 10am (in Sydney, anyway) and I was being let in to choose a seat from an actual map this time, and somehow front row was wide open for the taking. I don't think I'll ever stop being amazed.

The first night felt absolutely electric to me. The crowd was excited and full of energy while still managing to stay respectful, and Hanson themselves were smiling the whole time and seemed just as thrilled as we were. It truly felt epic to be there, and I think that feeling resonated through everyone in the room.

I was so entranced by the show and wrapped up in the performance in front of me that I was completely blindsided when a girl wandered her way down the front row towards my seat during "No Rest For The Weary" (?). I was so focused on the music and not on the crowd that I actually found myself sliding over, making room for her, and nodding in passive agreement as she said "I'm just going to take some pictures" and pulled out her phone. A second later I came to my senses and gently nudged her with my hand, said "No, you need to go," and successfully ushered her back in the direction she came. I think I spent the second half of the song staring after her in complete awe of how I and the rest of the front row had just let that happen, and laughing at myself for literally moving so she could stand in my spot. I'm normally all over holding my ground, but it was like she Jedi mind-tricked us all with such an unexpectedly ballsy move.

Next up was "I Was Born." Something went wrong near the end and Taylor lost his place, if only to further prove that there was still a little bit of reality in the whole surreal experience. He finally found his way back to the right part of the song with the help of his brothers and without the orchestra ever skipping a beat. It probably wasn't that noticeable to anyone who doesn't know the song word for word. They handled it like true professionals, and our grins got even wider as they finally got back on track at the end. I think sometimes the way you react to a mistake can speak to your talent just as much as if you'd done it all perfectly to begin with.

The second night was beautiful and still a little bit magical, but I'm not sure any String Theory show could top Sydney night one for me. Then there was the encore, a gorgeous cover of "Too Much Heaven" a capella without  microphones about three feet in front of my face, and I was in awe all over again. I will never get over how flawless Hanson's harmonies are, and I'm glad they shared that final moment with us. They nailed it, of course, and I was also extremely impressed by how silent the crowd stayed. Please excuse the somewhat awkward angle, but for once I actually recorded a video to share. I promise the sound is worth a replay or twelve:

I tried my best to play the role of a tourist in Sydney since I knew it might be my only chance. My favorite was a coastal beach walk from Bondi to Coogee beach which meant walking several miles down the coast of Sydney's finest beaches for some seriously breathtaking views. My only regret is not buying a swimsuit somewhere along the way to add to my collection. We also explored the Royal Botanic Gardens and took a boat across the harbor for even better views of the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

We splurged on a backstage tour of the Opera House the morning of the second show and got to see a lot of the inner workings of all six performance spaces housed within the complex. It became worth every penny for me the moment we were led into the rehearsal room where Hanson had practiced for the previous night's show, and our tour guide asked the group "Does anyone play?" while gesturing to a grand piano. No one else spoke up, and my friend began nudging me, accurately knowing that my stage fright extends to even the smallest of audiences but that I'd regret not taking the opportunity. Do I play? Yes. Do I play in front of people? I haven't in over a decade. Give me a small audience of strangers, and 10 years of lessons and 25 years of playing by ear go right out the window. I ignored the nagging part of my brain that told me to pass on the opportunity and successfully butchered the first few lines of "Reaching For The Sky" before bowing out and wishing I'd practiced the song to perfection (as if I could have possibly known that this was going to happen). Still, I'm glad I tried, because I know there won't be a next time. 

On a scale of 1-10, Sydney was a 15. I'm so thankful I got to experience the magic of these shows firsthand, and in a strange way it felt like a celebration of everything Hanson has accomplished up to this point. I could not be more proud of this band and the career that they've built by creating music that they believe in. They may not fit the textbook stereotypical mold for "success" in terms of radio hits or mainstream attention, but selling out the Sydney Opera House and drawing fans from all over the world to witness it is an achievement worth celebrating. Who cares about a bunch of numbers and meaningless accolades if you can't make an actual impact on real people? I'm not going to remember who had the #1 song in the world on March 4th, 2019, but I'll sure never forget where I was that night. Congratulations, Hanson. I hope you felt a little bit of the magic you've shared with us, too.


Unknown said...

Was waiting for this post! I've been a long time follower of your blog and was so excited to hear you were going to the Aussie leg of the tour. I'm from USA originally now in New Zealand. I flew over to just the two Sydney shows and saw you in the front row (I was in row 4) and wanted to go over and meet you but didn't know if that was too stalker-ish. Anyhow just wanted to say I love your blog and love that you thought the Sydney one was as amazing as I thought it was as it was the only 2 ST shows I got to see. So glad I chose well. hahaa..

Holly said...

@Erin, thanks for reading (and for the kind compliments)! The Sydney shows really were fantastic. The only thing that comes close for me would be my first time hearing it in Pittsburgh. I can't even imagine how amazing it would have felt to see String Theory for the first time at the Opera House. You definitely picked the perfect shows to attend!

P.S. It wouldn't have been too stalkery to say hi. Maybe I'll make it back there in another 7 years :-p. I'd love to see the Great Barrier Reef and spend at least a day or two in New Zealand.