Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Power of a Nation

I love, love, love writing sarcastic, funny (to some) or editorial type blogs. But tonight, I'm going to cast that reputation and writing style aside and write a schmoopie blog.

There's been all kinds of things written about the power of positive thinking. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale wrote forty two gazillion books about it. (He was only going to write 3 but he felt so confident in his ability, that he wrote forty two gazillion.) Motivational speakers talk about it all the time. Some in the medical community think it helps the body heal. But most of that comes from an individual's positive thinking for themselves.

What happens when a whole nation of people think that way? What happens when that powerful feeling of positive thinking and other related emotions and energy that come from love, prayer, encouragement or whatever else floats your boat are all directed at one person, simply for one ridiculously difficult note in a concert full of ridiculously difficult notes.

I'm not talking about a country, you see. Well, maybe not in the traditional sense even though it may sound like it. I'm talking about a nation filled with people from all walks of life, different ages, income levels, personalities, political affiliations and religions leanings. Men and women (OK mostly women but we need more nations like that). A nation that rarely agrees on anything and often disagrees vehemently on many things. A nation that loves to vote and vote often. A nation that does agree on one very important thing.

I'm talking about the Clay Nation. There's probably nothing else the Clay Nation loves more than concerts. Clay Aiken thrives on stage. We come together as family with friends old and new from all over the world just to watch this man perform. I went to a concert last summer in New Hampshire and at the pre-concert dinner there were people there from the US, Canada, the UK and New Zealand. We share rides, hotel rooms and food as we gather to hear the voice.

Clay's Christmas tour started Friday, December 1st in Waukegan, Illinois. He is performing with Symphonies this year as an invited guest rather than his traditional Joyful Noise tour. Some have dubbed this the Joyful Not a Tour since it isn't quite the same format. (Others have dubbed this the Mighty Fine Ass tour but that's probably another blog. Mouths to new stylist. THANK YOU for the PANTS!)

Clay chatted with his fans at the fan club site the night before the show (on his 28th birthday in fact) to ask us to pray he didn't cough up a kidney on the last note of song we've never heard him sing before called All is Well. (Written by Michael W. Smith). It's extremely high and is the encore song of a difficult set that pushes the upper and lower end of his amazing range.

The first night he was wound up, excited for the show. I'm sure adrenaline was pumping, which isn't necessarily good for singing. But he missed the note. Badly. And he rarely ever misses a note. He even bravely tried again and didn't get it. But the rest of the show was so spectacular, it didn't matter. The audience was still on their feet. But I know it mattered to Clay.

Now this is a killer note. It is a high A and he holds it for 8 seconds. It's been a long time since I read music but to me it sounds as high or higher than the note from his stunning performance of Bridge Over Troubled Water on the American Idol season 2 finale.

Predictably, the haters jumped on it as his voice is shot. Now when I say haters, I don't mean people who just don't like Clay because his voice isn't their thang. I mean haters, people who spend what seems every wakening moment spewing their venom all over the internet. It always amazes me that these people watch more Clay video than the fans. I really wonder why they don't just crawl back into their holes and find something that they actually enjoy. But whatever, their loss. And our amusement at their insanity.

Tonight Clay performed with a different symphony in Merrillville, Indiana. It was an even better show. But when he came out for AIW, everyone was a little nervous. And I mean everyone.

Fans in the theater, fans on the message boards, fans in chat rooms listening in over friends' cellphones. One of our Conclayve writers was there and she described it like this

He planted his feet, gripped the microphone stand and let it rip. Everyone all around me was leaning forward, afraid to breathe, almost willing him through it, and you could tell that he knew it. And when the time came, he grabbed the mic stand, planted his feet, squeezed his eyes shut and it just...came out. Wow. It was so gorgeous and so powerful. I heard a lot of gasps, and then everyone simultaneously jumped to their feet, screaming and applauding and jumping up and down.

I was in chat with about 80 other fans. The love in that chat room with people typing their support, their prayers, their encouragement was palpable. I think we were leaning forward toward our keyboards as well.

He felt it, he had to have felt it. He sang Alllll Iiiissss, took a deep breath and nailed it. Weeeeellllllll. I think he held that note forever. I think his voice soared to the ceiling of that venue and took the hopes of every fan watching at that venue and every fan listening at home over their headphones with it. We all soared at that moment. Our hearts were in his throat, while lumps of joy were in ours.

He had a look of relief and then utter joy. Joy that he had done it, joy that he had made us so happy. Joy in the song, which sings that all is well because born is now, Emmanuel.

In years to come, this year will be looked upon as a blessing in disguise. The lies in the gossip pages and websites made him determined to take back his life. And he did. The delays in the album gave him a greater bond with an Executive Producer who knows what his gift truly is and finds a way to bring that forth on that round piece of metal that transports his voice to us. And her famous brother saw it too. From that we got two wonderful albums and a gift of lyrics written by Clay in Lover All Alone that we might not have otherwise seen if the year had gone as originally planned. He handled everything with grace, from the crap to the ridiculous (or should I say Ripadiculous), which gains nothing but industry respect.

It really doesn't matter how many times he hits or misses that note for the rest of the tour. He has 18 shows in 23 days. He'll probably miss it again. But most wouldn't even try it.

The look on his face tonight is what I will hold in my heart as I watch with hope for a new beginning with a record label that knows that in many ways, this ridiculously impossible note defines the man. The Waukegan note represents 2006 to me. It was bad and it wasn't right for Clay. But he learned from it, worked it out and found a way to make it better. The Merrillville note and the look following its triumph is what will define 2007 for Clay. And the nation that held its collective breath will be beside him every step of the way.

All is well, Clay. Bravo.

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