I saw Robert Plant in concert a few days ago. I love live music, especially outdoor concerts and this one was really special because he was vibrant and because the crowd was so awesome.
How can a “rock” crowd be awesome if their average age was in the mid-60’s? Most people had gray hair (and those of us who didn’t spent good money to make sure it wasn’t). More than a few people were having trouble walking (which I suspect just means they haven’t had their hip replacements yet). Many were wearing glasses, although there were several who weren’t (probably because they’ve already had their cataract surgery!).
We were seated in a special section that had catering and nearly everyone ate several mini-cupcakes, even though at this age, they go straight to our hips. The years may have taken some toll on us physically, but we were all there, soaking in the lovely summer evening, thankful for the opportunity to be there and looking forward a fabulous concert by someone who meant something to us 40 years ago, and who still remains relevant in so many important ways. As I sat there admiring all the fabulous people in the crowd, it occurred to me, these are my people. I wouldn’t have always embraced that, after all, I’m not yet 60, I color my hair so you can’t see the gray, I run and exercise to try to stave off post-menopausal weight gain, and I truly don’t think of myself as “older,” but the calendar doesn’t lie.
Robert Plant is a rare breed among ‘60s musicians. He isn’t playing the same old tired tunes on the casino circuit. He’s aging without getting old, embracing his age, and constantly reinventing himself (if you haven’t listened to his bluegrass album with Alison Krauss, put that on your list, and I highly recommend his new album “Carry Fire”). I like to think the authenticity of the crowd had something to do with the authenticity of the performer that night.
Here are five ways Robert Plant rules and five ways that the rest of us fine-winers can rule, too:
1. Even though he’s done it all, he knows it hasn’t all been done. Rock, bluegrass, blues, he’s done it all, but he knows there is still more to do and that there are still new songs to write. He constantly reinvents himself and reaches beyond what we expect from him. Regardless of the success you’ve had in your life or career and the things you’ve mastered along the way, there are probably new challenges you can take on and new activities or hobbies or skills you can learn and enjoy.
2. He collaborates. Robert Plant’s current band is The Sensational Space Shifters, which includes a young Irish fiddle player who was also his opening act. He gave each of them a chance to shine and show what they could do while taking back stage to them. And who didn’t love his collaboration with Alison Krauss or Patty Griffin? Baby Boomers were raised to work independently and stand on their own, while Millennials were taught to work in teams. There’s a mid-point where the individual and the team merge and true collaboration occurs. We’ve probably all got something to learn here.
3. He brings out the oldies, but on his own terms. Of course, most people attend a Robert Plant concert hoping to hear “When the Levee Breaks” or “All of My Love.” The best of the Led Zeppelin hits border on ecstasy, but he plays them now sparingly and always on his own terms. He no longer hits the high notes, so he doesn’t do Immigrant Song, regardless of how much we want it. Instead, he lives in the present, only revisiting the past when he chooses. Challenge yourself to revisit your past sporadically, as opposed to living there.
4. He embraces where he is now. There are so many clichés among the rich and famous. We’ve all seen the aging celebrity rendered unrecognizable by too much plastic surgery or the septuagenarian with the twenty-something girlfriend. Have you seen Robert Plant lately? The years of rock and roll living are imbedded in his face with every wrinkle and gray hair, and yet he is even more vibrant now than he was earlier because he embraces where he is now, not where he was before. His music is interesting and reflects where he is now, not where he was when we first met him. How many of us focus on how we used to look, who we used to be, or where we were years ago, as opposed to savoring the wisdom and satisfaction that comes with age and experience?
5. He’s Robert Plant. Who can forget seeing concert footage of him at the height of his Zeppelin days belting out rock masterpieces while wearing tight jeans and open shirts with that big mass of perfect rock hair blowing in the wind? And whatever that “thing” is, he’s still got it, even in his FineWiner years.
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