Deaf girl hears sappy songs.

Last fall, we had the fortune of seeing Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs live at The Cabaret – the most intimate venue in town.  I really enjoyed his performance, as I’ve been a fan for a long time, but his stories and humor were mostly lost on my mostly deaf ears.  His voice, and the songs, and his stage presence were enough to make me happy.  But I was definitely missing something, as everyone around me was laughing and I was trying to figure out even vaguely what he was talking about.

Then we saw him again last night and it was a totally different experience.

I never would have imagined that Alan Cumming would be my first concert post-cochlear implant. I would have thought I would have ended up seeing my usual concerts – Hall & Oates, Dennis DeYoung, The Monkees. But as it happens, Alan was going to play the Palladium in Carmel and I couldn’t pass that up. What I didn’t realize when I bought the tickets was that it was going to be basically the same exact show we saw last year. WHICH IS AWESOME. Now I have the perfect pre- and post- comparison of my hearing.

He’s a dynamic performer. The Palladium is a lot bigger than The Cabaret, but he still absolutely commanded the stage. I missed the intimacy of The Cabaret, where I felt like he was singing directly to me and making eye contact with everyone in the room, but the acoustics in The Palladium are stellar and it is just a beautiful place. I’ve seen shows there before, but always from the first or second row, since I try to buy the “maybe I can lipread from these seats” tickets (it rarely works).

He came out to sing, starting with a cover of Annie Lennox’s “Why”, which is a great song that I remember from prior to my hearing loss, but I don’t know it well enough to know all the words. I had switched to my music program as soon as the lights went down so I was ready to go. The music started and it was too loud – overwhelmingly loud. But that’s okay, because I can turn the volume down! I went down two spots and it seemed like that was a good volume (so lesson learned for my 3-month programming next week).

And then he started singing and suddenly there were tears rolling down my cheeks.

Not only was his voice clear and beautiful, but I could understand every word. This is what I have been waiting to hear since I was activated in August. I had a tough time with his Scottish brogue at first, but as with every other sound, once my brain figured out what it was, it sounded “right” and I could suddenly understand. There were a few moments throughout the evening where I missed a few things, but compared to missing everything like I had before, I can’t complain.

Towards the end of the show, in fact the “last song” of the show, he covers Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes”, one of my favorite songs of all time. And it was perfect. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anything so beautiful.

Thank you, Alan Cumming.

(you can watch his whole show on PBS: but I highly recommend seeing him in person if you get a chance!  The above YouTube video is from the first time we saw him, at The Cabaret in Indy.)

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