The other night I had a little insomnia, wrestling with the long heavy blanket of the night. So I turned on the flat screen, and Lord be praised, some channel I’d never heard of was showing video of Glastonbury, which is the biggest English music festival, in 2008. I was fortunate enough to catch the below performance by Elbow, a band that isn’t well-known in this country but is pretty big over there.

Those of you who indulge my musical ramblings will have gleaned that I much prefer English pop to American music. There is, I think, in Brit pop a sweetness, a romance, a wistfulness, a vulnerability, a yearning—in Portuguese they call it saudade—that is simply not present in American pop. It’s not an overstatement to call it joy in the face of mortality. (Saudade isn’t quite right, but it’s the closest equivalent I can think of.)

Maybe we have the Beatles and “Let It Be” to thank for this, but English pop music isn’t embarrassed to be beautiful.

This song, called “One Day Like This,” is a perfect example of that complicated emotion. (Can Americans have complicated emotions? Perhaps, as our country grows older, we are learning.)

First are its lyrics.

Someone tell me how I feel

…It’s silly wrong but vivid right

Oh, kiss me like the final meal
Yeah, kiss me like we die tonight

…Cause holy cow, I love your eyes

And only now I see you like

Yeah, lying with me half-awake

Stumbling over what to say
Well, anyway, it’s looking like a beautiful day

So throw those curtains wide!
One day like this a year would see me right
….

Rapture against The Rapture.

And then…watch the performance! There’s joy in that too—in the absolute bond between band and crowd; in the wonderful smiles on the faces of the players in the string section (how much fun they are having! And yes, I fell in love a little bit with the cellist in red); in the drummer’s goofy grin (he’s good, too); in the beauty (listen carefully, you’ll hear it) of a quiet harmony, a lone woman onstage singing while tens of thousands joyously join in; in the thousands of people taking a song and filling it with life like pouring oxygen into lungs.

So throw those curtains wide!

One day like this a year would see me right….

Performers and audience both know this is a special moment. You can see it—feel it—happening. A transformation…as a concert performance becomes something more, something ecstatic. Those moments are fleeting, which is one of the reasons they are magic.

As for me…well, sure. It was late and I was tired. But, hell yeah—I was moved. Throw those curtains wide. Throw those curtains wide.