Home | Music | The Nightwatchman and Lebron James: 'It's a lonely stretch of blacktop between here and home'

The Nightwatchman and Lebron James: 'It's a lonely stretch of blacktop between here and home'

The Nightwatchman rocks out in Cleveland as the Cavs struggle a few blocks away to keep hope alive in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

"Who?" the young, slender blonde vixen asked when I told her how I'd been waiting a good ten years to see Tom Morello perform live.  I explained about The Nightwatchman, a rad new persona that the greatest guitarist alive has taken on, and who was opening for Ben Harper and his Innocent Criminals.  And though tonight's show likely won't show the ways he can freak a guitar, the man is full of soul, a righteous troubadour who will rock the house something wild, and blaze a path burning bright for a revolution.

"Wait," said her gorgeous brunette friend, "what about Jack Johnson?  I thought he was opening up for Ben Harper.  That's what the website where we bought our tickets said!"

Sorry to disappoint, but Jack Johnson wasn't on the bill.  It didn't take them long, though, to become true believers after The Nightwatchman took the stage at the House of Blues in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.  Just Morello, his guitar and harmonica, slamming out his own brand of folk tunes with a brutal urgency and wit.  This may not be Rage Against the Machine, but it's just as hard in many ways.

The Nightwatchman brings to the current generation what Bob Dylan brought to the 60's crowd: an awakening, a rally call to pull our heads out of the sand, and realize that while the world we live in is surely rotten, it doesn't have to be that way.  We can make a difference, or at the very least we should try to do so.

By the time Morello broke into "Union Song," the floor was packed tight, the audience who had been lingering at the bar waiting for Harper to take stage coming forward to see what this warrior of folk was really about, and getting sucked into the magnetic vibe of solidarity.

Cleveland is a prime example of how the "American Dream" is really a nightmare of corruption, greed and capitalistic perversion.  Try as people may, the poor just get poorer, while the ruling class gets richer and richer.  It remains a city of destitution, the poorest city in the nation, with whatever "middle class" that used to be here quickly finding themselves, in actuality, struggling to keep food on the table.  Poverty is widespread over the Buckeye state, especially in the Northeast part of Ohio, where homelessness is rampant yet slapped in the face with millionaires building trendy and opulent condos in the ghettos.

The Nightwatchman brought that angst out before us all, and with a mighty strum on his six-string said that we shouldn't accept this fate.

So maybe these sexy young ladies wanted to see their fantasy surfer boy Jack Johnson crooning about "Where'd all the good people go?" but instead, they got a lesson in life.

After the show, we made our way to the Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavs were playing the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Championship Finals.   The series had the Cavs losing 0-2, but tonight they were finally on their home turf.

For the past few years, a lot of pressure and hope has been heaved upon the shoulders of Cavs forward Lebron James.  At 22, he's already considered one of the best players in the game, and for the city of Cleveland, he's a gem that everyone thinks will boost business, revive the drowning economy and make this a better place to live.

So far, James has kept hope alive, bringing the Cavs to the first championship series in the franchise's history.  In every driveway with a basketball hoop, Clevelanders excitedly wait for James to triumph while playing their own games, every day since the Finals began.  At the same time, though, the city is still sinking in the national trend of greed, and the truth is that one man, no matter how awesome he may be on the court, is not saving us.

We sat at a bar across from the arena, watching Game 3 on the screens.  The Cavs played better than they had in the first two games, and by the third quarter it looked like we might actually win.  Then the Spurs kicked things into high gear, and ultimately beat our home team.  Two days later, the Spurs would complete their mission, beating the Cavs with a close, yet ultimately devastating contest.

I went for my routine walk the following morning around the neighborhood, and nobody was out shooting hoops.  They had enough; they needed a break.  Some friends in San Antonio tell me that the sound of a basketball hitting blacktop hasn't stopped.

Even so, James and the Nightwatchman each hold a torch for us, feeling our agony.  Maybe someday, Cleveland will not just get another break, but use it to push through to lasting greatness.


The Nightwatchman

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