After years of wanting to see the Nelson twins, I finally got my chance to see them perform their “Ricky Nelson Remembered” show at the Avalon theatre at Niagara Fallsview Casino.
The show was a wonderful evening of stories told by Matthew and Gunnar Nelson about their late father, which included video clips, and of course a night of the legendary former teen idol’s music.
But before I go into this, I must confess I was walking into this concert with an expectation of hearing the Nelson twins play the classic hits from their rock and roll heyday back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear “Love and Affection”, or “After the Rain”, from the 80’s hair band which could’ve been mistaken for a couple of Swedish supermodels? Matthew and Gunnar have long since cut their long hair since those days, and I knew that. Still, I wanted to see them be the young rockers I remember from the late 80’s.
But this was called, Ricky Nelson Remembered. So at the end of the night there were no original Nelson twins’ tunes. The show really was about their Dad, no joke, and I almost left the Avalon Theatre disappointed, until Matthew told the story that struck me between the eyes.
Matthew told the story how Ricky Nelson’s classic tune, “Garden Party” was written. Apparently he was playing a 50’s and 60’s show at Madison Square Garden in the early 70’s when the music scene had drastically changed. Instead of the 50’s image he was known for, Nelson now had longer hair, and wanted to be accepted for who he was, not for whom he was in the late 50’s. So he ended up playing a Bob Dylan song, and another from the Rolling Stones before getting boo’ed off the stage by 20,000 fans at the Garden.
Inside every defeat inside of us all, life gives us the ability to see the silver lining if we so choose to do so. So Ricky Nelson chose to see that, and wrote “Garden Party” knowing that we cannot ever please everybody, but we could please ourselves.
And that’s when it hit me. I was holding the Nelson twins as prisoners 25 years in the past. I suddenly got the realization that I certainly wouldn’t want to be held to who I was 25 years ago, yet that’s exactly what I was doing to them. When I had that A-Ha moment, I sat back, stretched my legs out, and enjoyed the show.
That’s when Matthew told us he was a new father. His 4 month old son, Ozzie was named after his paternal grandfather, of Ozzie and Harriet fame. Gunnar had recently gotten married, and inherited 3 daughters in the process. These young men I had seemingly seen only minutes ago, were now transformed into a 47 year old father and husband, and I was free to allow them to be that.
Sometimes, we as fans hold our hero’s to that standard because it makes us feel safe. It reminds us of that special time in our lives when their music inspired when we really needed something to cling to. Instead of allow the artist to grow as an entertainer, and more importantly as a person, we keep them small inside our tiny keyhole view of how we want them to be, so it serves us better.
But watching the Nelson twins play, I got something much more than a night of nostalgia. I got the freedom to allow my hero’s be the people they needed to be for themselves, and their own growth. I’m thankful for the memories they created for me, and I will always have that. That’s the beauty of memories; you can take them with you whenever you want.
This family legacy really started with Ozzie and Harriet, gaving Ricky Nelson his debut, which created the way for Matthew and Gunnar to follow in their footsteps, rounding out 3 generations of entertainers. All of which came out in their show. It was a unique twist, and a fitting tribute.
I’m pretty sure the twins could be doing their own thing. Being the child of a superstar leaves some really big shoes to fill. Not only do the Nelson twins not have the idea of filling in those shoes, they seem comfortable to share them with their roots and acknowledge the talent in their family, which is a damn rare thing in this competitive world we live in. And because of that, I felt the Love in this show.
Ricky Nelson has been gone for almost 30 years now. But I swear he was at that show watching down on his boys singing those songs, keeping his legacy alive. I can’t help but think it’s the most wonderful gift we can give when we put aside some of our hopes and dreams to fulfill someone else’s.
So thank you Matthew and Gunnar for that magical gift. And I hope that in doing so, you’ve also realized that you can’t always please everyone else, but you can please yourself.
Thanks for reminding me of that lesson…