Cocteau Twins - 04/09/1991

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This was my second Cocteau Twins gig in less than a year, so you might think I would have been a little more forgiving that the band only lasted four songs before calling it a night. In truth, at the time I was okay with a truncated set because The Veldt had opened and I'd been dying to see them anyway, and Cocteau Twins were not doing anything significantly different this time than they had a few months earlier.

Liz Fraser had a cold or something and as I have mentioned before, she seemed to barely be able to bring the music to life on her own with all of her faculties. After struggling and coughing through a few songs, she walked off stage and we all sat there kind of wondering what has happening. I remember everyone being really sympathetic and accepting of the situation as we all felt bonded with the woman behind that angelic voice. The weird thing though was the way that the band reacted. Simon Raymonde seemed to get really testy on the mic as he explained that they simply couldn't go on and we should all go home. I couldn't understand why he seemed so frustrated with us at the time, but after being on stage with Underwater and having to cut a set short ourselves about a decade later, it all made a lot more sense. I doubt very much that he was angry with the audience, and realize now that it was more likely that he was just taking it out on us.

The organizers were promising a rescheduled date or refunds, but neither ever materialized. I was pretty happy to get whatever the band had to give that night, but now that the band has broken up and moved on, I realize that my last chance to ever see Cocteau Twins ended after 4 songs with a Liz Fraser who's voice was even more fragile and lonely than usual. I had seriously considered going to the Coachella festival when Cocteau Twins were scheduled to headline, but as I read Robin Guthrie's blog I realized that it wasn't happening after all and I could have nearly ended up feeling like the band owed me for TWO tickets, more than a decade apart.

Sometimes it's just not going to work out. I learned this in my own bands with singers. Sometimes the best thing you can have as a fan of someone else's music is a record and a dream of what it might be like to hear the band bring those songs to life over giant sized speakers. Sometimes a dream will have to do.

Cocteau Twins - 11/15/1990

Cocteau Twins 1990

What a week. Just days before my first brush with Cocteau Twins I had been sitting in a small auditorium and spacing out as Julee Cruise effortlessly brought music from Twin Peaks to life. My second trip into the city to was to see Cocteau Twins, my favorite band (then and now, by the way). It was also a sneaky jab at a psuedo-date that ended with very little romance but with a great sense that I had connected with someone.

I bought two tickets to this show knowing that one of the many cute but utterly unattainable girls in my circle of friends would love to go. As it turned out, it was harder to find someone who both wanted to go and who's parents would allow them to go than I had anticipated. I remember finally getting my friend Pauline to go with me, and though we'd never really gone out and done anything together before, it somehow seemed like the obvious person I should have asked from the beginning.

We got into town a bit early and we checked out the nearby record store who had wisely put some Cocteau Twins 7"es on display. I saved my money for t-shirts, and we made our way to the venue.

I had somehow scored unreasonably good seats for what I think was a sold out show. We were right on the isle in the middle of the orchestra section and we had a great view of everything. A then-unknown Mazzy Star opened the show and while I wasn't in love with their set, I was won over when a heckler called out "Who are you?" in between songs and Hope Sandoval calmly retorted with "Who are you?" to great applause. I think they ended the set with "Fade Into You" and then broke the stage down to what seemed like an impossibly sparse arrangement for Cocteau Twins.

While I can listen to Cocteau Twins records for hours on end, I quickly learned that the studio magic that makes their records so lush and pristine is hard to recreate in a live setting. Knowing every nuance of every vocal melody and harmony by heart like I did, it was a little troubling to hear Liz Fraser pick out and wander around vocal parts other than the ones I wanted to hear. She's got an acrobatic voice, but there is sadly only one of her in the world, and while Robin Guthrie seemed content to put a lot of drums and synth on tape, her voice seemed awfully lonely without backup.

The band all stared at the ceiling or at their feet (I wouldn't hear the term shoegaze for another year or so) and the set was beautiful but not quite the transcendent experience I had hoped for. I would have this same problem over and over at shows through the years--hoping that live music would be emotionally transcendent only to find that it was usually pretty, but not life-changing.

On the way home, Pauline and I were amped up about the whole thing. I think that I had bought $50 worth of t-shirts and while I don't remember talking much about the show on the ride home, I do remember feeling connected to Pauline as though we had shared a pretty special experience. For a moment, I think we might have held hands, maybe, but that was it. I'd love to know what she's doing these days.