Brisbane. Saturday, 10.20pm
The harmonies send a shiver through me.
I don’t understand why, but when female voices combine in strong sweet collusion, it creates a fracture in my mundane world, and – as Leonard Cohen says – ‘that’s how the light gets in.’
Every now and again we have a moment when the light gets in; when a sense (rather than an understanding) of a bigger picture cracks through the walls we build around ourselves. This happens to me when women sing.
The three women are singing Woodstock, Joni Mitchell’s ode to that huge hippie festival of ’69. In reaction to a destructive post-war materialism, the counterculture of that time celebrated love as more important than war; nature more important than profit.
I’m onstage, near the wings. This song is the Haight Ashbury show’s encore and I’m soaking up the moment, shaker in hand. Embarrassingly, I feel tears forming. I should always wear my sunnies when the light gets in.
The three women, flowers in their hair, beads around their necks, sing: ‘We are stardust, We are golden, And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.’
A feather shakes free from Lil Fi’s boa and rides the thermals up into the lights, its shadow barely discernible among the psychedelic projections roaming the screen behind us. There’s a lot of heat being generated on stage right now. The band, the singers and the audience are all dancing to the simple truth – we are stardust.
Every atom in our body was created about 4.6 billion years ago when a contracting molecular cloud birthed a sun. Every atom in us has seen it all.
Strange. We die, but are eternal.
Diana Anaid takes the lead vocal for a verse and swivels into centre stage. Her energy crackles the air around her. The bassman steps away from the rockin’ radiation and smiles. All the energy in our solar system comes from the sun: from thermonuclear fusion. This is what powers Diana. She not only rocks, she ticks.
‘I’m gonna join in a rock and roll band, I’m gonna camp out on the land, I’m gonna get my soul free.’
Lil Fi’ and Andrea Soler are dancing cheek to cheek, flowers, feathers and fabric twisting and knotting together like DNA on acid. Diana joins them for the chorus. The three women are suns – radiant, smiling suns – electrons flaring between them. Once again that three-part harmony splits my atoms, letting the light in.
We are golden like the sun because we are the sun. From it we came and to it we will return.
Wow. That sounds like religion. The thought makes me smile. Me, religious? I have no interest whatsoever in old men with mortality issues, wine on their breath and young boys kneeling before them. I have no interest in old misogynists inciting hatred in gullible young blokes and misquoting a confused desert god for their own heavenly plans. (I do, as you know, tolerate Superman because he is at least real, and a gentleman towards women and youth.)
‘And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.’
But the garden is nearly lost – stripped, burned, bombed and fracked – and with it our point of reference. Have the moneylenders won?
If our natural world is replaced by a virtual one; if the big picture is replaced by a higher-definition one; if death is replaced by upgrade, how will the light get in? Our eternal atoms may come from the sun but our ephemeral heart comes from Earth, from the garden.
‘We are stardust,
Billion year old carbon,
We are golden,
Caught in the devil’s bargain,
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.’