Archive for the 'from the deep archives' Category

From the Deep Archives/Performance Diary: Nico in concert, Boston, 1979

September 8, 2022

4.17.79 12:20 am

Earlier I’d been to the Paradise Theater to see Nico, which was hilarious, wonderful & absurd. She had long, dark hair, with bangs down to her eyelashes, loose flowing clothes, & a heavily-accented slow voice.  “I’m so happy that you remember me,” she said first. Sat down at the harmonium & announced she would play some new songs. The first she said was “Genghis Kahn – or is it Jenghis Khan?” (“I have come to lie with you/to die with you”) The next one was something about “Do you dare to be insane?” Between those two someone brought her a tissue & a glass of wine – she said, “excuse me, I have something in my eye,” dabbed at her eye a little bit, then whispered “thank you.” For the 3rd song, which she introduced as “Henry Hudson,” she was joined by a man with beautiful long blond hair and a guitar. When he started playing, we decided it sounded like “Both Sides Now.” (I was sitting with Liz Ireland and Bill Tupper [Boston-based rock critics].) Then she said she would do some Lou Reed songs & did “Femme Fatale” (with the guitar, I thought it sounded like a George Harrison song; Tupper suggested Melanie) and “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” Then the guitarist went away. Nico thanked Lou Reed, and when someone asked, “Where’s Lou?” she said “He’s probably on his farm. He is always on his farm a lot these days.” At some point she mentioned “I have never done a concert so sober as I am tonight.”

photo by Ebet Roberts

Then she did a smattering of songs from her albums – she did a song from The End LP dedicated to Baader & Meinhof, it went something like “His sweat is my innocence/must they kill my fate/can’t I betray my hate?” which made me ponder “the right to hate.” Then she did a song in German from (she said) The Marble Index but it was actually from Desertshore – but she couldn’t finish the song. She just stopped for a moment, then said “I don’t know where the notes are.” A fan brought up a trinket to her, & she said “Is it black magic?” The woman assured her it was not. Oh, before that, just after the Lou Reed songs, she had said, “Are there any special requests?” People had yelled various of her songs. The only thing I could think of was “The Hissing of Summer Lawns.”

Anyway, after the song she didn’t finish, she said “I’m supposed to make mistakes. Andy Warhol said that.” A fan said, “Your mistakes are perfect.” She said, “I don’t think so.” Then she launched into a song I thought was called “You Will Know Me.” Maybe it’s “You Forgot to Answer.” It began, “If I could remember what to say…” but she didn’t finish that song either, forgot how it went. She seemed upset, & for a minute it was like Ronee Blakely in Nashville. Then she sang “No One Is There,” & everything went smoothly. Another couple of songs – “Frozen Borderline,” “Secret Side,” one about vestal virgins, then she introduced her  last song — & it was “The End” [long lugubrious song from the Doors’ first album]. We all groaned. It is pretty dumb. But she came back for an encore – I asked who was on the button she was wearing and she said, “oh – Sid Vicious.” And, finally asserting herself, she said, “whether you like it or not, I’m going to do another German song. That doesn’t mean I’m a fascist.” It was “Deutschland Uber Alles.” & it was over.

The harmonium is an odd instrument, very monotonous, but intriguing to watch her pumping the pedals & hearing the  repetitive wheeze. Soho News said her CBGB’s gig was eerie like a wake, and this was spooky, too, but more like watching an eccentric woman who makes old-time radio shows. Her enunciation is painfully precise, her pitch often painfully uneven. But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

FROM THE DEEP ARCHIVES: Martha Clarke’s ENDANGERED SPECIES

July 7, 2022

Seeing God’s Fool, Martha Clarke’s exquisite music-theater piece about St. Francis of Assisi, which finished up its three-week run at La Mama ETC on July 2, reminded me of another Martha Clarke piece, Endangered Species, that opened (and quickly closed) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1990, which I wrote about for the Village Voice.

This is how my article began:

“The show opens on Sunday, the reviews appear Tuesday morning – another pan from Frank Rich! – and boom, the producer announces that the show’s closing at the end of the week. An all-too-familiar Broadway scenario, right? Except that this time the location is Brooklyn, the producer is Harvey Lichtenstein, and the show is Martha Clarke’s Endangered Species, which opened BAM’s Next Wave Festival and then closed October 14, two weeks into a scheduled five-week run. With typical journalistic sensitivity, I checked in with Clarke, her longtime producer Lyn Austin (whose Music Theatre Group developed endangered Species for the Next Wave Festival), and Lichtenstein to see how everyone was feeling.”

You can check out the rest of the piece here.

You can see pictures from the production on BAM’s online archive here.

R.I.P./From the Deep Archives: WILLIAM HURT

March 15, 2022

The great stage and film actor William Hurt died March 13, 2022, at the age of 71. He was the cover boy for CAUGHT IN THE ACT: New York Actors Face to Face, the 1986 book I did with photographer Susan Shacter. He was the only actor that Susan felt needed three images to capture, and they worked beautifully for the cover. Having admired him tremendously onstage in HAMLET and HURLYBURLY as well as on film in BODY HEAT, ALTERED STATES, and the others, I very much enjoyed talking to him. “The mask is everything.” Click here to read my interview from the book.

From the Deep Archives: performance diary 1979

November 6, 2021

1/31/79

saw carla bley tonight. she’s bizarre. she conducts like a witch casting a spell, with crooked fingers. very funny, too. nice stuff, melodic – both raucous & lyrical, swinging & abstract. weird. her husband michael mantler is a hunk. steve swallow*, d. sharpe** & don preston*** also played. she had 4 little boys announce the players’ names at the beginning of the show – she consulted with one 3 times before he stated into the mike, “the sousaphone player is seldom present.”

*one of the all-time great jazz bass players

**formerly the drummer for Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers and alter played on Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”

***formerly keyboard player with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

From the Deep Archives: Mabou Mines’s HAJJ

May 7, 2020

In this time when live theater is not happening, the veteran downtown troupe Mabou Mines has been posting online treasures from its archives — clips and documentation and full-length videos from its long illustrious career. This week the focus is on a 1993 piece called Hajj, written and directed by Lee Breuer, performed by Ruth Maleczech, with set and lighting by Julie Archer and video by Craig Jones. Because I wrote an article about the production and its cutting-edge use of video technology for American Film magazine, the company asked if I would talk about what it was like seeing the show in person back in the day. My comments were posted on the company’s Facebook page, which you can view here. And you can check out the history of the production on the Mabou Mines website here. There’s a link on the website to watch the show on Vimeo, which is necessarily a rudimentary document that is no substitute for the magical live performance, but it will give you a sense of the work.

 

 

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