Well it wasn’t Steely Dan that Miriam and I went to see tonight at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood. Yet after just a few minutes my tinnitus was reelin’ in the ears and it’ll take days if not months, or perhaps years to recover. The opening of the Steely Dan classic warns:
“Your everlasting summer you can see it fading fast
So you grab a piece of something that you think is gonna last”
The only thing that would have kept this steamy summer night from fading fast would have been a good set of ear plugs.
What the hell were they thinking in this place? Originally named the John Harms Center, the acoustic nightmare that was this evening’s performance warrants bringing back at least the Harms name as a warning: Listening to a “rock” concert here may be injurious to your cochleae.
So you’re probably thinking, serves the guy right for going to a “rock” concert at his age, right? Oh please. Would you really think that The Beach Boys, fronted by Mike Love and his walker as the only original member of the band, could blow your ears out?
Sorry for the stock photo, but I can’t show you a live shot of the Little Old Men from Pasadena taken at tonight’s show. My ticket says “No Cameras Or Recording”. I respected their wishes and didn’t flash, but I’ll bet that even if I had tried to record the goings on tonight, it would have blown the batteries out of my recorder.
When the Boys first came on stage, I thought for sure they were lip syncing. There was no way that this blaring sound could have been live. Was this an acoustic nightmare? To be sure, the folks in center orchestra, at $112 a ticket weren’t going to move back. Nor do I think the volume was any less harsh in the rear. From the 50 and 60 and 70 year-olds swaying their hip replacements in the aisles, to the quartet of yarmulkes locking arms to shuckle horizontally to the beat, no one was going anywhere at least until the first intermission. It was as if all us hipsters were determined to convince ourselves that this was an enjoyable experience.
As intermission mercifully came, I bolted to the men’s room from my end seat, and good thing too. The other organ that the Bergen PAC taunts is your bladder. I thought I mistakenly got in the line for the Ladies room, but it was the men who were lined up for the little john that boasts three urinals and two stalls for a 1400 seat theater. Wading through the crowd I made it back to the lobby’s end, and ultimately out the door. I just couldn’t take the piercing noise any more.
The John Harms Theater went bankrupt at the turn of the century, and was bailed out by a $1.9 million low-interest loan from money through a tax-exempt bond issued by the Bergen County Improvement Authority. Hey look, I’m a tax-paying citizen of Englewood now, and I was really looking forward to walking to the Center for a nice and relatively mellow concert. I would love to see a refurbished venue this side of the tracks be wildly successful in elevating the cultural milieu.
It started out innocently enough, with the emcee acknowledging Shop Rite for their generous support of the performance. But shortly after 8 PM my ears got mugged, and there were no warning signs, nor any one to complain to who would listen. My anvil got hammered to my stirrup. “It’s not us; it’s the band’s sound system”. Right, Sherlock. But didn’t anybody tell these guys that they weren’t playing in the Meadowlands, and a 1400 seat theater needs to tone down the decibels? Nor do you need to be a friggin’ ENT to realize how untenable the volume was. But the next the Board of Trustees gets together to review the proceedings in this Hall of Horrors, perhaps a diagram would help.
I’m not sure that I’ll venture back into Harms’ way any time soon, and if I do return for anything other than Bill Cosby or Mozart, I’ll be sure to bring quality ear plugs. Shame on the parties responsible for tonight’s acoustic fiasco.