THE SHEPCAT CHRONICLES

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A Madeleine — #1 in a Series

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Friday afternoon as I waited in the chair for my oral surgeon to arrive for my follow-up, U2 played over the sound system of the dental practice.

In that moment I was transported back nearly 31 years to the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, where I celebrated my 21st birthday with my brother, Dustan, and my friends Andre and Michele. The evening’s main attraction: Bobcat Goldthwait.

Bobcat was in his prime in 1988, at the height of his popularity and the peak of his distinctive and singular comedic prowess. On this night he is characteristically manic, his screeching, howling, wailing voice playing to the back of the house. (We’re at a table somewhere in the middle, on the main floor.) Bobcat is rabid and hilarious, and you can barely catch your breath from laughter before he ricochets off in another direction. Then more laughter, more struggling to breathe, glancing at your friends to confirm that they’re experiencing the same giddy disbelief.

After a wild hourlong set, Bobcat, sweat-soaked and seemingly exhausted, bellows a thank-you to the crowd and exits the stage. The lights dim.

Long, sustained applause, catcalls and whistles from the audience. As an encore some comics will come out and do a little crowd work or have another tight, self-contained 3 to 5 minutes of material to reel off before they say a final goodnight. But you can’t imagine a comic of Bobcat’s vocal intensity and erratic physicality having anything left in the tank after the set we’ve just witnessed. Still, the crowd roars.

A minute passes, maybe more. The crowd won’t relent. Then suddenly a blue spotlight faintly illuminates the mic stand at center stage.

The crowd roars louder.

The familiar strains of a song begin to play over the sound system.

Enter Bobcat, first in silhouette, then bathed in the blue glow. He has removed the shirt that he sweated through during his set, and above the waist he is wearing only a tight black leather vest, his bare arms exposed. His stringy shoulder-length hair is now slicked back into a tight, precise ponytail. The stage lights come up a bit. He begins to sing.

See the stone set in your eyes / See the thorn twist in your side / I’ll wait for you …

The crowd goes insane.

Sleight of hand and twist of fate / On a bed of nails she makes me wait / And I wait, without you …

He is no longer pudgy, sweaty, frenetic Bobcat, the guy from One Crazy Summer and Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol. Right there in front of our eyes, he has become Bono — brooding, magnetic, self-assured — performing a dead solid perfect “With or Without You.”

And you give / And you give / And you give yourself away …

And he’s not lip-synching, either. He is fucking nailing it, every note, his voice crying out, hitting every crescendo. It’s beautiful, heart-wrenching, an absolutely mesmerizing 4 minutes of performance art.

I can’t live / With or without you / With or without you …

And then the music fades out. And he’s gone. And just like that, the house lights come up, and a thousand or so people are left to disperse toward the exits, puzzling over the transcendence of what we just witnessed together.

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Written by Shepcat

June 7, 2019 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Continuing Series, Kansas City, Life

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