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Music Mysteries - Extreme:10, Madonna: 4, Tool: Φφ Phi

Updated: Feb 12

Music Mysteries

The score: Extreme 10, Madonna 4, Tool Φφ Phi

How can seemingly intangible, music evoke such profound emotions and memories, especially in a live setting? Why, at times, it generates opposite or no feelings?

While recorded music may exist physically (i.e. a vinyl record), you can’t touch it; you can’t put it in your pocket or wear it. It is played, you listen to it, and it’s gone. But as it plays, it goes through your brain, implanting itself in areas that drive emotion and connect to the soul. When it comes to live music, something magical happens. Those connections return, triggering the same emotions, experiences, and smells that remind you of memorable moments. The whole body gets engaged as the vibrations come into contact with your body and are amplified by the collective experience of those around you. 

David Byrne has expressed this very well: “Live music has the power to create unique, communal experiences that cannot be replicated in any other form of entertainment. Live performances allow for a direct connection between the artist and the audience, fostering a shared energy and emotion that transcends the individual. Live music brings people together and creates lasting memories.” - sadly, today’s concert commercialism has diminished some of this.

Throughout my life, concerts have become the place where I refill my gas tank, if you will. And I recently experienced three shows, which were very different in genre, scale, type, and level of enjoyment. It made me wonder why some can trigger such strong feelings of joy, energy, and fun while others can do nothing or even be annoying and boring. I am referring to Extreme, Madonna, and Tool.


A band from the 80s whose song “More than Words” has become a classic even though it doesn’t represent their music. Their hard-core guitar rock music has a funk and an identifiable Queen influence. Their guitar player, Nuno, has been one of the best guitar players in the scene for a long time, and their singer, Gary Cherone, was part of Van Halen! (not that many people care.)

Their show was unpretentious; they played great hard-rock music, giving us all they had. 

Here’s a collage of videos from the show (pardon the poor editing). 

My gas tank was not only full, it overflowed.

Madonna, The Celebration Tour

Everyone knows Madonna: innovative, provocative, fit, beautiful, energetic, versatile, charismatic. While she’s not in my usual repertoire, I like her music in general, and many of her songs are part of the soundtrack of my life. She hooked me during her Live Aid performance. She came to town, so I gave it a shot. I took advantage of the price dynamic that happens when you are willing not to go, so I bought my tickets at the last minute for a very reasonable price.

The show, not the concert as there’s no live music, is more than anything a dance performance recapping her 40+ year admirable career. 

I was not compelled to take videos, so here’s my only picture.

My gas tank came emptier than when I arrived: The high-decibel big bass, no-live music extravaganza failed to strike a chord. Favorite songs lost their magic amidst a spectacle fixated more on dance than music, devoid of any live instrumentation. But most people around me loved it, and my wife was about to start a fight with the ladies in front of us, who chose not to ever sit despite being in the first row of the section and the only ones standing around us, ignoring those behind them, including her. 

It was worth noting that the crowd differed greatly from the "usual" one. I loved the ladies dressed like Madonna in the 80's, and had fun watching drag queens and proud gays showing their love for "the queen."

Tool, Fear Inoculum

Tool's score could not be put on a 0 to 10 scale; they are so different they deserve a special score, in this case, Φφ Phi, the Golden Ratio, something they use in their song "Lateralus," which contains Fibonacci-inspired time signatures.

A special feature that made this show especially enjoyable is that I came with co-workers I had met in person for the first time (except David, the "Americana" guy) and who were coming all the way from Europe and the West Coast, creating a special bond and connection that only music can create. Human interactions like this bring authenticity to the workplace, something not so prevalent in corporate America. I was not afraid to see them shaking my head!

Tool's show was mind-blowing, strong, immersive, and direct. Their music can't be characterized as heavy metal or hard rock. Still, one can identify influences that come from Led Zeppelin, Rush, early Metallica, Motorhead, Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols, Depeche Mode, King Crimson, and Joni Mitchel.

Here's the whole show!

And the co-worker crew:

So, after these recent shows, I keep wondering about these human mysteries: 

  • Why can one connect with music so closely while others can’t, and vice versa? 

  • Am I close-minded, or is my brain not wired like Madonna’s fans?

  • Why do I enjoy so much something that, for some, sounds like loud noise?

  • Is the experience a result of how we relate to “our clan?”

  • Do we just want to be "wowed" by a production?

  • Do we choose not to like something?


The Cleveland Orchestra, Beethoven's 5th Symphony

Maybe the most amazing music in mankind, written by a deaf person.

Attending the Cleveland Orchestra is a pleasure, affordable, only a 20-minute drive from home, parking is easy, and you can be in your seat in no time. Despite all these commodities, the Sunday trip was very stressful as we didn't leave with enough time and my son's car gas tank had only 25 miles left - enough to make me moan for the whole ride. Fortunately, the unusually large number of concert-goers slowed things down at the parking lot and the orchestra gave us a few extra minutes to find our seats.

The concert started with Schubert's Symphony No. 6, which was interrupted at every movement by the claps of the unfamiliar audience. It was incredible to learn that Schubert died at 30, leaving a musical legacy that compares to Mozart and Beethoven. This movement is at part with any of the master's work.

After a short intermission, the orchestra played the most famous four notes in music history, followed by 30 minutes of musical magic. The symphony has four movements:

  1. Allegro con brio

  2. Andante con moto

  3. Allegro —

  4. Allegro

Reaching heaven and realizing you hadn't experienced Beethoven's Fifth Symphony while on Earth would be a shame. Then again, maybe heaven is where such music truly belongs.

Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra

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