Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends

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Last night’s show was…??

I’m having trouble coming up with one word to sum it up.  I’m conflicted about it.  On one hand, the musicians were fabulous and delivered a performance worthy of their world renown.  On the other, some artistic choices were questionable, tone-deaf at the bare minimum.

Here’s the setup:

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The stage setup was minimal and the lighting was sparse.  The colors changed slowly between songs but not during the segments.

From left to right, Bill Murray, Mira Wang on violin, Vanessa Perez at the piano and Jan Vogler with the cello.

The show was about two hours, including the multiple encores.  In the beginning, the narration was quite separate from the music.  Bill did a reading, the musicians followed him with a selection.  The theme, in a broad sense, was American classics.

Bill’s first few readings were Ernest Hemingway, Walt Whitman and James Fenimore Cooper.  The music following was Bach, Schubert and Ravel.

As the evening progressed, the narration merged with the music and by the end, I’d say we even got a few ‘songs’.   The show ended with a West Side Story medley of Somewhere, I Feel Pretty and America.   The first encore was El Paso, a Marty Robbins song familiar to me through the Grateful Dead.  The second encore was Angel of Montgomery, unlike no version of the song I’ve ever heard.

Now for the complaints, one selection in particular, a reading from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The controversy over this one is a well known one, stemming from the prolific use of the n-word.  In today’s atmosphere, I have a problem with a room full of white people sitting, literally, at the top of the hill, listening to it.

With all of the conversations about race going on these days, I don’t think this selection added to it.  I’m sure the rationale for including it is a convenient soundbite about the importance of having such discussions and this is just another example being brought to the table.  Blah Blah Blah.  If that was the case, I missed the part where meaningful discussion was had.  To me, it was an old white guy using inappropriate language.   There wasn’t any context for including it.  It was just presented.  Given the plain presentation, it’s left to the listener to come to their own conclusion.  My conclusion:  meh.  If I was the producer, it would have been cut.

Of all the works selected, having one poor choice isn’t huge.  Still though, it seems like an obvious candidate for replacement.  Interestingly, the Huck Finn selection is one track not available to stream on Amazon.  All the other tracks are available but the Huck Finn track is listed as ‘album only’.  I’m curious about that.

The other ‘artistic’ choices fall under the umbrella of sexism.  I think the ladies, exceptionally talented and passionate artists, were relegated to the role of props.  Bill made his entrance at the top of the show flanked by them, holding hands.  It just felt off.  I doubt these women made entrances like this at other performances and I doubt it was their idea.   It colored the entire show.  These talented women were not treated as equals.  And we all know who got the biggest paycheck on that stage.  It was certainly not the women.

At another point in the show, during a cello-piano duet, Bill and Mira, the violinist, did a bit of tango.  They did a little toe-point step in hold and then opened into a little spin from Mira.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.  It stuck out being the only choreography of the night.  Beyond that though, Mira was ‘summoned’ to dance and throughout most of it, her back was to the crowd.  Again, it just felt off.  It wasn’t natural and it was a bit out of place.

Given the time we live in, I think it’s appropriate to call out sexism and racism.  These are small things to be sure, coming from an old white guy though, it doesn’t sit right with me.  Was the show awful and terrible? no.  Was it tone deaf?  Yes.  That’s the most generous way to put it.  The intention was not to be offensive.  It just fell a bit short of amazing and genius and all the other praised heaped on.

It makes me think, Bill surrounds himself with Yes Men and people are so smitten just being around him, they don’t call him on it.   To read reviews, specifically of the Huck Finn track, calling it genius and a breath of fresh air seems like a cult of personality to me.   I don’t agree with those assessments.

Oh well, can’t win ’em all.  Most of it was good.  I just can’t give it rave reviews like everyone else but I’m not writing letters demanding my money back either.  It was a fun experience.  Frankly, the sweater is bigger than the show for me.  The show is just sort of an aside.  A cap to the whole experience that started when I read a ridiculous call for a Bill Murray art show.  Obviously there’s a cult of personality involved here.  Who am I kidding?  That was a given from day one.

The most unexpected part of the evening:  the number of hecklers.  Fools in the very back row (naturally) shouting things like ‘THIS SUCKS’ at the quiet moments.  They were shut down quickly and loudly by people around them.  I think it was two gentlemen in particular, maybe it was actually 3 though.  They reminded me of the people who yell ‘FREEBIRD’ at concerts.  LOL.  Poor guys, apparently they thought they were coming to see a comedian do stand up?  The first 20-30 minutes were rough for them.  Bach and Schubert are certainly not Freebird.

The best part of the evening:  Talking to people about my sweater :)  People were interested and amazed, so that was fun.  After all the work that went into it, two sentences doesn’t do it justice but you’ve heard about it all already, so I’ll spare you the repetition.

It’s on to new knitting now.  I’ve got a little bit of time for Christmas knitting and I’ve been jonesing for hat binge.  I haven’t knit a hat since August and that was only my second of the year.  I’m ready!  Bring on the hat binge! It’s gonna be good!!


 

9 thoughts on “Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends

  1. Olivia

    All I gotta say is Bill Murray is an odd duck. I watched a Christmas special with him on Netflix and it was the weirdest show I’ve ever seen. Maybe he thinks he’s artsy but personally I don’t think he’s got a clue to what art is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so sorry that this thing you looked forward to for so long, and knit such a beautiful sweater for was such a disappointment. It actually sounds pretty awful. I might have also heckled. Or at least made a statement departure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fortunately, I had this sweater in the works long before this show. The show just happened to be the catalyst to finally get it done. I appreciate the experience but I doubt I’ll get going back for the next tour.

      Liked by 1 person

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