Travel back in time to your favorite concert memory. Did you see the show live or on television? What did the band play? Who were you focused on? How did the music make you feel?
Any music lover can probably answer these questions easily as they travel into the time machine of their mind to re-live that feeling that can’t be duplicated. Many of those memories are likely to contain an instrument—perhaps a shiny guitar in a distinctive shape or a handsome piano their star’s fingers cascaded across in the moment.
Now rock ‘n’ roll fans have a chance to see some of the most famous instruments, played by music legends in landmark performances.
Through Oct. 1, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibit “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll,” guests can gawk at guitars, pianos, drums and more from the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, U2, The Who, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Jerry Lee Lewis and more.
When I visited, I entered the gallery quite late—just over an hour until closing time—and stumbled into the first room where I was immediately stopped in my tracks by Ringo’s iconic drum set.
After I snapped this quick photo, I gravitated toward John Lennon’s famed Rickenbacker. Just as I got to it, the loop of music that was playing overhead cycled to “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and everyone in the crowded room began singing along. Old, young, different ethnicities—we were all on the same spiritual page in those moments. I got emotional and felt, just based on those few precious minutes of harmonizing with strangers, that everything in our world was going to be okay.
And that’s just the kind of powerful thing that happens spontaneously when we share music.
As I continued through the exhibit, taking the longest time with The Edge’s guitar (he used it during The Joshua Tree, after all), I focused on absorbing the energies surrounding these relics. I tried to picture Kurt Cobain smashing the guitar that was in fragments behind a pane of glass and could almost hear Jerry Lee Lewis pounding the keys of his old piano, displayed just a few feet away.
Toward the end of the experience there is a screening room that allows you to view some of the performances that feature these very instruments. I watched the loop three times.
Though to some, these items are just pieces of wood and metal that happen to make noise when placed in the right hands, to me they’re living, breathing remnants of a time and space that can never be replicated.
I’m grateful I got to see them up close.