Tag Archives: Making It

This Strange Freak’s name is fog

The Englert Theatre, one of the University of Iowa's performing arts venues in Iowa City. (Photo courtesy Jacob Yarrow, Unversity of Iowa)

Weather scuttles Stew & The Negro Problem’s Iowa Omnibus show — for now

What does Mother Nature have against Iowa City, Ia.?

Stew at Joe's Pub on Jan. 23, 2012. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

In 2008, the Iowa River overran its banks and devastated the city, destroying much property in the city, including the notable Max Abramovitz-designed Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

The flood-ravaged Hancher Auditorium, designed by Max Abramovitz, the architect of Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

The latest natural disaster didn’t cause physical damage that we know of, but the psychic damage is certainly huge. A “freak fog” closed the local airport and kept Stew and Heidi Rodewald and their band, The Negro Problem, from making it to Iowa City in time for their Feb. 2 gig.

As we reported the other day, Stew & The Negro Problem were to present Iowa Omnibus as the centerpiece of a Feb. 2 show at the Englert Theatre, a civic auditorium that is housing some of UI’s performing arts productions. It was commissioned by UI’s Hancher Auditorium, the campus performing arts presenter, inspired by Stew and Heidi’s 2010 Brooklyn Omnibus shows, as well as their hit musical, Passing Strange.

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Stew just can’t shed his Negro Problem

Stew in his breakup show, "Making It," at St. Ann's Warehouse in February 2010. (Copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Three shows at Joe’s Pub mark Tuesday’s release of Stew & The Negro Problem’s new album, Making It

The cover of Making It features a photo by Stew's daughter, Bibi.

First of all, let’s say “welcome black” to Stew & The Negro Problem.

It’s been 10 long years since Stew (born Mark Stewart in 1961) and his band The Negro Problem made a proper, official album: 2002’s Welcome Black. But on Tuesday, Jan. 24, the wait is officially over when Making It gets its official release.

Thank goodness. It’s long overdue. But you’ll surely find it worth the wait.

It’s a crazy, creative look at the breakup of Stew’s relationship with his longtime girlfriend and musical collaborator Heidi Rodewald. The breakup came in the run-up to the pair’s amazing theater project,  Passing Strange, which briefly thumbed its nose at the Broadway establishment from the Belasco Theatre over six months in 2008. (It also lives on in a Spike Lee film of the show’s final performances.)

Heidi Rodewald and Stew. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Stew and Heidi managed to survive the breakup and continue their artistic relationship, albeit not without some problems. This album documents the breakup, and in some ways, the promise of their continued collaboration.

This is Stew’s fourth album under the rather provocative name of The Negro Problem, though on  this release on TNP records, the band is billed as “Stew & The Negro Problem.” And even though Stew seemed to abandon the band name in favor of his own moniker, Stew and Heidi haven’t released a rock album since 2003’s Something Deeper Than These Changes, billed simply to Stew. (Yes, there was a Passing Strange soundtrack in 2008, but that wasn’t a Stew record, let alone a Negro Problem record!)

Let’s just say it’s about time! It’s always seemed to me that Stew needs The Negro Problem to fuel his angry-not-as-young-as-he-used-to-be-man persona. (Truth be told, he’s used The Negro Problem name occasionally in recent years, but this seems to be a definitive return home.) Continue reading

The new Stew review, comin’ right at you!

Stew in his breakup show, "Making It," at St. Ann's Warehouse on Feb. 21. (Copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

I avoided reading reviews of Stew and Heidi Rodewald‘s new show, Making It, playing  at St. Ann’s Warehouse through tomorrow night. I wanted to go to tonight’s show with fresh, unsullied eyes, ears and mind.

But somehow I just couldn’t resist. And then, once I read the pan by Jon Caramanica, I just knew Stew had to have had something to say about it on his blog. Stew goes in fits and starts, but recently he’s been taking to the blog to set the record straight about inaccuracies in things that have been written about his work. And boy, he didn’t disappoint with his response to Caramanica. He wrote  a highly entertaining, deliciously acerbic post that you can read for yourself by clicking here. (One inaccuracy that Stew didn’t correct in The New York Times review is the tagline that said  the show “continues through Sunday,” it has another performance tomorrow (Monday) night. Has the Times‘ fact-checking  department been eliminated?)

Bottom line here, is that everybody’s entitled to an opinion. But I couldn’t disagree with Caramanica more. Stew’s response may have been rather, ummm, emotional (understandably), but he’s still right. I don’t know what Caramanica was seeing the night he reviewed the show, but he must not have seen the show I saw tonight.

Sure, Making It is not Passing Strange. But it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s a document of a breakup — somewhat fictionalized, like every good work of art— presented in the form of a staged concert. And it rocks!

If you want to see this show, you are probably out of luck. The last show is tomorrow (Monday, Feb. 22) night, and as of a couple of minutes ago, there were only three seats left, priced at $78 apiece. But don’t take my word for it, check out the St. Ann’s Warehouse  web site. If you do get to see it, you’ll be glad you made the effort. It is an amazing show.