Randy Newman is not afraid. I take my seat among a crowd that has a preponderance of gray hair. People are talking about Newman’s soundtracks to Pixar movies like Toy Story and Monster’s Inc. I hear someone warn their companion, “He also does some weird songs. We might be for an interesting night.” Then Randy saunters onto the stage in jeans and a short-sleeved black and white shirt, sits at the piano, and belts out:
Very far away in a foreign land
Live the yellow woman and the yellow man
He’s been around for many-a-year
They say they were there before we were here
Eatin’ rice all day
While the children play
You see he believes
In the family
Just like you and me
Throughout the night Randy takes on the persona of bigots, perverts, lovelorn fools, child and spouse abusers, nationalists, capitalists … the list is pretty much as long as his playlist. His commentary on the songs is nearly as goading and satirical as the songs themselves. Yet somehow, the man manages to come across as earnest and vulnerable, even though you know he’s often taking on these personas to expose and criticize them mercilessly. He also seems to be exposing and criticizing himself at the same time. It’s oddly intimate. You want to give the guy a hug. All this with a solid, satisfying musical performance. Just piano and vocals – I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’ve never heard another voice like his. As far as I’m concerned Randy Newman holds his own place is musical history, and I’m grateful to have seen him perform.
2 responses to “Live Music: Randy Newman”
Thanks for covering this performance. I’d love to have seen it. I have worn out his old LP’s, but I still have them. Did he sing his new song critical of the Bush Administration?
He did! He indicated that maybe he hadn’t played it in the US yet. I couldn’t resist applauding during the song, and the lady next to me said in the most offended tone you can imagine, “I beg your pardon!”