When I finally landed in the US in Nov of 2011, I have to admit I did not have a freaking clue how drastically, how monumentally my life was going to change. Yes, getting an assignment of substantial period to the US is any Indian IT engineer’s dream and it was so for me as well. It was an opportunity to not just glimpse but to experience, be a part of a whole new world that I had grown up hearing about and seeing in television and movies and yes, where also most of my gods of music were from. But I had never even imagined that within this elusive opportunity there was an even bigger prize, something that hadn’t occurred to me, not even in my wildest dreams – the chance to see my gods up close and personal! However this prize did not come so easy; what no one really tells you is that the first few months in US is actually really tough on you, your mental state, and not due to any abrupt culture-shock or the seemingly unsurmountable workplace pressures. No, it’s the loneliness, acute loneliness of the self even when you are surrounded by room-mates and new acquaintances and colleagues. It’s the kind of paralyzing loneliness where you lose yourself, slowly forget who you are and what you believe in!
Or maybe it was just me! Maybe most hopefuls and dreamers hit the shore in awe and then keep on going just fine from there. But anyway that was not how it panned out for me, and desolate and discomforted, as I was commuting to office by the local bus one day, voila, a billboard came to my rescue and it said: “Guns N’ Roses: Up Close and Personal”. The music lover, who had forgotten to listen to music for the last few months, suddenly jerked awake and it all came back to him – “That there in the billboard, that’s who I am, the guy who had travelled 6 days alone to watch Iron Maiden Live for just a few hours.” How can he not go to a Guns N’ Roses show when it’s in the same (though alien) city? Yes, he is new in this big and scary city called Los Angeles and he doesn’t know to drive or even have a smartphone and haven’t been anywhere alone here yet, let alone a concert. But can it be for real, is it even possible? For him? And where do you even get tickets for events like these and will it even be available now, with the show a couple of weeks away? Googling brought up something called Ticketmaster and it was saying that tickets are available, can you believe that? But there was no going back after that. The analogy I like to think about my situation then was that I was a good reliable car like a Toyota but the battery was dead and so the car just wouldn’t start and stayed put after that. All that it really needed was a jumpstart of purpose and that’s what the billboard did to me! It not only jumpstarted but catapulted me into a new phase of life with new goals and aspirations, into what was to become (I hope) a lifelong passion.
The concert was on a weekday and I got out a little early from office, changing into a black rock t-shirt and grabbing a note scribbled with directions and timings for all the different buses I would need to take. For the final leg as I was walking through the dark of East Hollywood (which was quite a shady area) both excitement and apprehension were vying for my attention. I finally reached my destination and got a pleasant surprise, as the venue was more like a large pub with a stage which meant I didn’t really need to worry about a good spot, the stage would be really close from anywhere. I got a beer and started soaking in the environment, the people, the energy. The place was starting to fill up with the beautiful people of Los Angeles and the buzz of joy and contentment and a sense of having finally “arrived” started making itself felt as I gladly waited for Guns N’ Roses to get on stage. But I was a little surprised at why they were playing at such a small venue that accommodated so few people! Maybe they were “have-beens” now but not for me and I could barely thank my lucky stars.
And when they finally got on stage and played straight for around 3 hours and most of their classics like Welcome to the Jungle, Estranged, Sweet Child of Mine, November Rain, Don’t Cry, Civil War, Knocking on Heaven’s Door and then many more, I remember feeling like being on an ecstatic rollercoaster ride that would get over when it got over and till then all you could do is just take in the blasts of nostalgia and euphoria, wave after wave, song after song, almost like a state of trance where you are at the mercy of your surroundings that thankfully was hell-bent on making you have a good time! And I would like to think, it was this experience that washed away the sediments of loneliness and forlornness and paralysis that had started taking over me, flushed them all away and underneath I discovered a new, squeaking clean me, an enhanced version with many more options and opportunities. After the end of the show when we all streamed out I remember hanging around for sometime looking at the people and the cars and just trying to hang on to the sensation. And as I walked back through the same shady areas, I didn’t feel scared any more, I had witnessed something special, something powerful which was able to yank me out of my self-pity and give me new goals, new targets to achieve. There were still so many gods to catch up with!
- Concert#: 5
- Season: 2012
- Date: 12-March-2012
- Band/Artist: Guns N’ Roses
- Tour Name: Up Close and Personal
- Opening acts: Don’t remember
- Venue: House of Blues, Sunset Strip
- City: Los Angeles, California
- Setlist: Guns N’ Roses @House of Blues, Hollywood – 12 Mar ’12
- Fun Fact: First concert in the US
- My Concert Quotient: 5/5