Monthly Archives: April 2010

Give the Harmony Singer Some: Jakob Dylan (not pictured) at 9:30

Because the abstract of my already-short Click Track review of Jakob Dylan’s Friday-night 9:30 Club show with Neko Case and Kelly Hogan would be, “Okay, but too many samey-same slow songs and not enough Neko!,” I am re-posting this very distinct, very fast 2009 Jason Creps photo Campfire Noir Knockout with Twizzler (Or Is That a Red Vine?) in an attempt to balance the scales. Continue reading

60 Miles to Studio City

What’s with the photos? Well, My City Paper review of the Belfast-set Kenneth Branagh play Public Enemy ran yesterday. It’s a confused and often confusing show, a very uneasy meld of character study and political parable. While writing about it I thought back to when I visited Belfast in May 2007.

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These political murals fascinated me. They were not subtle. The painting was often crude, the messages cruder. They were heartfelt as a heart attack, and they were everywhere. Continue reading

King of Americana

So Elvis Costello is playing in town tonight. I am a fan. I admire a lot of things about Elvis besides the fact that he’s written hundreds of songs, a very high percentage of which I find listenable, dozens I think are pretty great, and at least a handful I don’t know how I lived without. (Not ’til I was 22 did a pal give me a copy of the The Very Best of Elvis Costello & The Attractions, if you can believe.)

Admittedly, my can’t-live-without E.C. playlist does not include anything from, say, the album he made with Anne Sofie von Otter, or the one he made with Burt Bacharach. But I commend his adventurousness and versatility, and especially his work ethic: He’s always giving songs away, interviewing Lou Reed or Bruce Springsteen or Bill Clinton on premium cable, singing on other people’s records, teaching himself musical notation 20 years into his career, composing a ballet, making unaccountable cameos in movies like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, writing an opera, and here and there tossing off another perfectly nasty rock song like it’s nothing. Dude always has four projects cooking and and nine more on the back burner, and he seems to pay for his collection of funny hats by flying around playing concerts that seldom repeat a setlist and regularly clock in around two-and-a-half hours. So: Respect.

Of course, Elvis’s productivity and idiomatic wanderlust are the selfsame qualities that can make him seem like an annoying magpie, especially to listeners who only want to hear him spit venom about Liv Tyler’s mom while keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas open up the throttle. Continue reading

In Shadowboxer, the Brown Bomber gets an opera

When Joe Louis took only 124 seconds to knock out Max Schmeling in 1938, it was one of the most historic sports triumphs of the 20th century.

Schmeling, a reluctant representative of Nazi Germany, had defeated Louis two years earlier, and the Reich’s propagandists had proclaimed that result — Louis’s first professional loss — as a demonstration of Aryan supremacy. The rematch was broadcast in dozens of languages. In dispatching Schmeling, Louis became a hero to a world that trembled before the ascendant Nazi war machine, and the first black man to achieve broad acceptance as a symbolic ambassador for the United States.

Leon Major, artistic director of the Maryland Opera Studio, was five years old when his father turned on the radio to hear that fight. It was over in less time than it took Major’s dad, a tailor in the shtetl, to get a glass of tea from the kitchen.

Now 77, Major isn’t quite sure whether he remembers the match firsthand, or if he heard about it later. Memory is funny that way, especially when we’re very young. But Major vividly recalls Louis’s career-ending loss to Rocky Marciano in 1951.

“That incident stayed with me, because it was so devastating to so many people,” Major says. Even Marciano had looked up to Louis — he visited the fallen champ backstage after the fight to apologize for beating him.

Four decades would pass before Major began thinking seriously about making Louis’s life the subject of an opera, but once the notion seized him, it wouldn’t let go, even after numerous composers and a librettists turned the commission down. Some even suggested an opera about Jackie Robinson instead. Continue reading

Waiting for Goodman, the Comedian‘s Son

When he was writing Rooms: A Rock Romance, the two-person musical that premiered at Alexandria’s MetroStage in 2008 before going on to a warmly-reviewed off-Broadway run last year, Paul Scott Goodman inserted a layer of remove from direct autobiography: He based the show’s female character, rather than her male paramour, on himself.

When he returns to MetroStage this weekend, he’ll have no such veil.

Son of a Stand-Up Comedian is the story of a moment in the life of Paul Scott Goodman as written and performed on 12-string guitar by Paul Scott Goodman, 22 or 52 years in the making, depending. The composer/lyricist began working on his solo musical — which he performs in front of a microphone, concert-style, “a rock-and-roll raconteur kind of thing” — in the middle of 1988, when his wife, director Miriam Gordon, was pregnant with Shayna, their first child. Now 21, Shayna is set to graduate from Sarah Lawrence College next month.

“That summer was one of the hottest on record in New York,” Goodman says in the Scottish brogue he’s retained since moving to Manhattan in 1984. “I was working on my first musical, trying to get it on. I was trying to be a father, trying to be a writer, trying to be a husband. It was very trying.” Continue reading

Yep, they really did run the photo with the caption, “Requiem Darfur a dream.”

Rahaaleah Nassri and Erika Rose

Noted with Relief: Theater J’s In Darfur ‘s intentions aren’t the only thing that’s good about it. CP review commences:

Winter Miller’s In Darfur is one of those plays that seems at least obliquely to chronicle its own creation, like Moises Kaufman’s 33 Variations or Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife. In seeking to compress an unfathomable tragedy into a tellable story, Miller transfers her own pedagogical burden onto one of her three major characters: New York Times reporter Maryka (Rahaleh Nassri) has only days to turn up evidence of a genocide campaign backed by the Sudanese government before her editor reassigns her to a story with more established news value. “Are these good rebels or bad rebels?” Maryka’s editor wants to know, inquiring after the Sudan Liberation Movement. “They’re not great,” Maryka says. The difficulty of untangling the warring factions for Westerners hardens the Times’ reluctance. But Maryka has lucked into the ideal ambassador in Hawa, a teacher whose command of English gives her the ability to personalize the story for readers Maryka hopes will pressure their governments to act if she can get Darfur onto page one.

Read the complete review in the Washington City Paper.

Whole Latte Love: NoJo at the Warner

So your problem with Norah Jones is what, exactly? Do you hate her because she’s beautiful? Because your mom likes her records? Because people have bought 35 million of them? Do you find it disrespectful to the honored dead that she sings like Dusty Springfield, even if that means her singing is lovely? Do those lulling, breathy pipes make it hard to tell, even after four studio albums, if she’s a good songwriter? Do you wish Ravi Shankar was your dad instead of hers?

Get over it. Or don’t. On the evidence of the latte chanteuse’s pleasant if not revelatory 90-minute set at the Warner Theatre on Friday night, it don’t make no nevermind to her. Ease is her thing, not exertion.

Read the review in its brief entirety on Click Track.