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Googoosh performing in Toronto on July 29, 2000. Photo by Peter Jones/Reuters

Like holding my pillow
Googoosh's first concert in 21 years brings back memories

By Termeh Rassi
July 31, 2000
The Iranian

I have deliberately stayed away from knowing anything about all the raucous surrounding her. I haven't read her interviews. Was she rude or insensitive in her comments about the LA music scene? I have no clue and I don't care. That issue, is another article in itself. We have just gotten back from Toronto and I know one thing for sure - this is not going to be a regular review of a concert. I have just walked away from having one of the most emotionally intense experiences of my life and I have to frame that around Air Canada Center in Toronto, 15,000 Iranians and Googoosh.

I have no idea what possessed us to fly out to Toronto. In the weeks leading up to July 29th, I fielded calls from friends wondering if I had lost it. I smiled through accusatory stares of family members who could not understand how mu husband Reza and I - who pretty much work from sun up to sun down and who have managed to bypass most familial obligations in the past few months with the excuse of being too busy - could make the time to fly out to TORONTO to see GOOGOOSH, who is coming to our town (Washington) anyway. The truth is that we are busy beyond belief but we knew we had to be there for the first concert. It felt wonderful to be spontaneous for a change.

Like Iranian-American geeks that we are, we showed up at 7:00 to pick up our tickets. Reza was worried that the line for "Will Call" would be too long. I knew most Iranians would never trust a venue with their tickets - they would have it sent to their home. To my utter astonishment, the place was full of people - Iranians - who were there ON TIME (cross my heart hope to die).

We stood around watching the unique fashion show that is the hallmark of all Iranian events - everything from today to yesterday to never. But we were all nervous and skittish. The laughs were a little too loud, the smiles tight. None of us knew what to expect - would it start on time? Could she still sing, would the usual motley crew disturb the night?

At 8:10, the lights went out. The band began playing a familiar tease. Something about announcing her arrival. And then ...tears.

As I started to cry, it hit me that I hadn't been with so many Iranians since I left Iran. That was 18 years ago. I don't remember what song she sang, but it was a familiar one. Hearing her, seeing her was holding my old pillow I have had all my life; it was the sun in the afternoon at my grandfathers house; it was walking through my old classrooms, it was being held by those whose embrace I miss the most. I saw my whole life flash before my eyes just then realizing that she was singing the soundtrack to my childhood. Memories flashed effortlessly, one after another.

For 3 hours I was transported to a place that I haven't been since I left Iran. All of us sang, all of us cheered, all 15,000 of us were connected. I have never seen so many Iranians in one place genuinely enjoy each other. It was a mass orgy of love, of forgiveness, of healing, of acceptance, of nostalgia.

Don't misunderstand me, I am not saying that what I just described was because of Googoosh - but she was the enabler, a conduit for thousands emotionally starved people. In a way two other singers fulfill that role for my generation - Farhad and Farmarz Aslani. But where their songs leave me emotionally raw. On this night, I felt like I had come home - an awfully powerful feeling for someone who hasn't felt at home for almost two decades.

Googoosh is Barbara Streisand, Elvis, Madonna and Frank Sinatra rolled into one. She has aged gracefully, unlike many a hasbeens desperate to reclaim their past glory. Her confidence, stage presence and charm are truly overwhelming - I am too young to have seen her live in Iran but only now can understand the cult like devotion she inspired. She is an artist whose repertoire of classics actually can't be fit into one night - I am not sure many Iranian artists can claim that.

And her voice - that is the only thing about her that hasn't changed a bit - it's amazing- just as powerful, just as clear. She introduced a few new songs and I have to admit, I am not sure I am ready for the new Googoosh. I still haven't had enough of the old.

The concert itself was incredibly well organized. Her band was very good (for those of you who go, check out Pedro and his emotive hand gestures during solos). She sang from 8:10 to 9:15 - took a 30 minute break - and sang again for almost another two hours. At 11:20 15,000 of us deliriously walked around the streets, feeling immortal and elated.

I am sure the controversy will continue to shadow her. I worry that someone will manage to ruin one of her concerts somewhere along the way. I wonder if I will feel the same way when I go to see her in DC. As you may have surmised, I highly recommend that you go and see her - unless you feel that artists are political beings that must also be politically correct. Or unless you were planning to nominate her for a public office and all of us a sudden feel unable to vote for her because of her opinions on other artists which means that you couldn't possibly go to her concert.

Well, it may be politically incorrect, but nobody else is on her level and I don't think anyone else will be in a long time. So swallow your envy, try to stop the compulsive need to critique, get over the fact that she has the audacity to charge a fee for her concerts (and remember how much you have paid over the years to see the Gypsy Kings over and over again). And remember what it felt like to be childishly happy. Buy your ticket and be prepared to go back home again - at least for a few hours. Also see Googoosh concert review by Pedram Moallemian

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