One of the numerous humorous videos projected during “Notes of a Native Song” at Joe’s Pub labels a silent clip of James Baldwin smoking a cigarette with: “Don’t blame any of this on me. These are Stew’s words not mine.”
How does any rock musician play a show — especially in New York City — on the day the world learned that David Bowie died?
With heart and soul.
Heidi Rodewald and Stew at Joe’s Pub on Jan. 11, 2016. (Photo © 2016, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)
Stew and Heidi Rodewald played their “Notes of a Native Song” show at for a mixed crowd of friends, fans, and arts presenters (it was an APAP showcase gig) Joe’s Pub on Monday night as if it was the most important show they’d ever done.
It wasn’t until after taking the final bow that the pair returned to the cramped stage to sing a reverent rendition of Bowie’s “Be My Wife.” The song — never explained by Bowie but often perceived as Bowie’s musical effort to save his marriage to Angela Bowie — was a beautiful and touching tribute to the chameleonic icon by a pair of artists who once were a couple themselves.
Stew (© 2016, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)
It has been just seven months since they premiered their James Baldwin-centric show at Harlem Stage as part of the 90th anniversary of the late literary icon’s birth.
It’s the same show I saw in Harlem, but it felt very different. I can’t — and wouldn’t even if I had kept detailed notes — do a song-by-song comparison of the two productions. But the show I saw Monday night felt like it had evolved and grown. Some of the songs seemed tweaked and rewritten.
Was there a new song or two in the mix? Maybe. But it could simply be my memory playing tricks on me. If it matters, I’m sure Stew will explain.
I’m fairly sure that my sense that the show felt much tighter and even more energized than it was in Harlem is not based on a faulty memory. Freed from the confines of Theater-with-a-capital-T in Harlem, Stew, Heidi (wearing clericals), and their seasoned crew of Mike McGinnis (in a tux and a rather large yarmulke) on winds, Marty Beller (in a bright orange plaid shirt) on drums, and Art Terry (in a choir robe open to his breastbone) on keyboards really rocked.
“The Good Swimmer,” with music by Heidi Rodewald, libretto/lyrics by Donna Di Novelli, music co-direction by Marc Doten and Rodewald, direction by Kevin Newbury, is part of the 2016 Prototype festival through Jan. 17.
Stew made a point to mention from time to time that they were doing a New York version of the show — pointing out the parts that weren’t really in the show that they were peddling to the APAP crowd. But with a show like this — warm, personal, and loosely structured — there’s room for variations to accommodate location and other temporal factors. I expect it’ll be slightly different everywhere it’s performed.
Who knows when this show will reappear in New York?
But if you have a craving for more of this team’s creative output, check out Heidi’s show “The Good Swimmer,” which runs through Jan. 17 as part of the Prototype Festival at HERE arts center, 145 Sixth Avenue. Order tickets online by tapping or clicking here.