The Avalon Ballroom – Fallsview Casino, Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Friday April 6th, 2018
*What follows is an excerpt from Brian Foster’s forthcoming novel, Six Days Apart: That Time I Saw Rod Stewart & Michael Bolton Live In The Same Week (Publisher, Release Date & Novel Pending)
There is no effective way for me to articulate how much I love the music of Michael Bolton. Human beings are hardwired to respond to certain things in certain ways but when it comes to music, our brain tells us what to love but it always fails to tell us why.
Who needs ‘em?
Just hearing Michael Bolton’s music can release chemicals when my brain is overdrawn at the endorphin bank. In the spirit of Top Gun, the music of Michael Bolton forces my brain to write cheques my body can’t cash. I am not hyperbolizing when I say that hearing his music has, on occasion, changed the trajectory of my day for the better. When I was given the opportunity to attend one of his shows, I was cruising serotonin for days. That being said, I had no idea what type of evening laid in wait for I had never seen the man perform live.
I will say this, what I ended up with was intangible and completely magical.
The show started at nine o’clock sharp. For the next ninety minutes, Michael Bolton made one thing crystal clear: He is a performer of 40 plus years who has a kung fu grip on his craft. A messiah in boot cut jeans. His set included a mixture of covers, duets (sung with duet partner Sam Fly) and classics but it was the classics that I came to hear:
- Said I Loved You … But I lied
- Soul Provider
- How Can We Be Lovers
- How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?
- Steel Bars
Repertoire, man. Fucking repertoire.
I could have easily weaved these song titles into a poetic and eloquent paragraph describing how his set unfolded but I am a sucker for dot jot and in the information age, sometimes we just need shit spelled out for us. These are all major hits and supremely well-crafted pop songs. If these songs do not fill you from the crown to the toe-top full then you are dead inside.
Merely stating that Bolton delivered at every turn is a gross understatement. He made seamless transitions between Motown, Big Band, Stadium Rock and introspective ballads. At one point, he sang a song in Italian for Christ sakes.
He sang in a language that was not his native tongue. You will not see shit like that at a Father John Misty concert, solo dicendo.
The show was so wonderful that when he left the stage for a costume change, it felt like an eternity.
But I had some insider information. You see, I did not come to this show alone. I came with a friend who shares the same undying passion for Michael Bolton. For the sake of anonymity, I will refer to her as Annie Wilson. Annie had heard that at one point during the show, Michael enters from the back of the venue and performs a song from the audience. We knew that this had to be that point in the show. Our anticipation for this moment to arrive was reaching a fevered pitch but he was gone for so long that our giddy anticipation would start to fade. He was gone for a long ass time. Based on my estimation, he left the stage for roughly 20 minutes.
20 minutes, man.
Endorphin levels dropping.
Adrenaline tapering off.
Anxiety levels rising.
And then like a phoenix from the ashes, Michael Fucking Bolton appeared in the middle of the audience to deliver his first encore: His timeless rendition of When A Man Loves A Woman. Dear reader, believe me when I say that Hyperbole is not my bag so I have to be brutally honest with you: I have witnessed the creation of life. I have heard the sound of a new born babe taking its first breath yet I can unequivocally say that this was the apex of my existence. Nothing can or will ever top that moment.
Or so I thought…
As he finished making my life complete, he made his way back to the stage. This was when Annie noticed a sea change that was taking place in the first few rows of the audience. People started standing up and moving towards the front of the stage. I felt Annie start to nudge me and then she urged me to “move! Move! Move!”
Just like that, we rushed the stage at a Michael Bolton concert.
One minute, I am 20 feet away from him, the next I can see the sweat on his upper lip. Our hands were extended in the hopes he would touch us. He made his way down the line of people shaking as many hands as he could. I was at the very end of the line. There was no way our palms would connect. I was just about to give up and retreat when I felt it. Michael Bolton shook my hand and it was electric. I felt alive for the first time in my life. Then he proceeded to play the one-two punch of How Can We Be Lovers and Steel Bars. I thought my fucking head was going to explode. He touched me and then played my favourite songs.
I sang along at the top of my lungs. I knew every word by heart. I looked into his eyes. I raised my arms in the air. I shouted his name hoping he would look at me. I thought I would go hoarse from yelling. It was right in the middle of Steel Bars that he raised his head and looked right into me. We locked eyes and it was then and there that I knew I had to say something to him. Something that would cut through the loud music. I summoned a lifetime of education and searched my soul for the right thing to say. I had his undivided attention and it was time that we finally communicated with one another and what came out out of me was:
“HI MICHAEL! HI!!!”
He looked at me, cocked an eye brow, shook his head, looked at his feet and sang:
Steel bars, wrapped all around me
I’ve been your prisoner since the day you found me
I’m bound forever ‘till the end of time
Steel bars wrapped around this heart of mine
It was in that moment that he encapsulated what it feels like to love him, “bound forever ‘till the end of time”.
Brian Foster is a founding member, contributing writer, performer and director with Suitcase In Point. Watch Brian perform with Suitcase In Point in their annual Dirty Cabaret on the closing night of this years In The Soil Arts Festival. Sunday April 29th.
For more information, visit inthesoil.on.ca