Wow, what an amazing night was Saturday night. I saw Randy Newman and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) at the State theater. Many of my friends have no idea who Randy Newman is. My brother joked that he is the ‘toy story guy’. Sheeshhhhh kebab!!!
Ok, in a nutshell… in 1968 Randy released his first studio Lp and has so far released nine others, the latest being ‘Harps and Angels’ in 2008. He has released a musical (Faust), various live Lps and compilations (the most recent being this year’s ‘Randy Newman song book Vol 2, in which he performs a selection of his songs with just a piano accompaniment) . He has also done many film scores including The Natural, Ragtime, Parenthood, Toy stoys 1,2 & 3, Monsters inc, Cars etc… Among the many awards he has won are; 2 Academy awards, 6 Grammy’s and 3 Emmy’s. Randy’s songs have been sung or covered by many artists including Nina Simone (I love her version of ‘I think it’s going to rain today’), Cilla Black, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, Eric Burden and The Animals, Nilsson, Irma Thomas, Gene Pitney, Peggy Lee, Wilson Pickett and Joe Cocker...to name but a few.
So, Saturday night sitting eleven rows away from Randy, I was in heaven! The performance had an intimacy about it. Randy made various humorous comments. He shared self deprecating anecdotes and engaged with the audience. After each song in which an orchestra member soloed, Randy announced their name and thanked them. He told us that he thought that we have a great Orchestra here in Melbourne and asked us to support them. At 67 Randy wasn’t quite in his performing prime, missing a couple of notes/chords as well as a few other mistakes, but we, the audience, loved him regardless. During the between songs banter I noticed a few times that his hands looked like twisted claws and I wondered if the years of playing piano had taken their toll on him or if there was something else going on health-wise. Where Randy usually sings about characters, shifting the focus away from himself, tonight he was the focus and we saw him as the sixty seven year old performer. We saw his years of wisdom, musicianship, wit, brilliance, his frailness, his aging, his humbleness and his humanness. We loved him for it all. This was a touching performance in which his brilliance still shone strongly.
Randy played almost all of the songs a fan would hope for, some just him and piano, others included the MSO. Randy even conducted the MSO as they played suites from four of his film scores. I could have just listened to Randy solo on the piano all evening, well....along with a few of his witty and self-deprecating stories and comments thrown in. It was such a great concert and Randy (with MSO) ended with an absolutely haunting rendition of ‘I think its going to rain today’. At the end of the performance everybody in the theater stood up and gave one of the western world’s greatest songwriters a heartfelt and earnest standing ovation. We had experienced something beautiful and real.
Thank you Randy (I did restrain myself from yelling out 'I love you Randy' at the concert) and special thanks to Nadia from Coco Moloko (check out her site and buy her cool children's clothes!). Because of a chain of events that Nadia inadvertently started, I was able to get a ticket at a discounted price (long story).
A couple of examples of Randy's brilliance:
The witty and probably truthful 'Political Science' (live in 2006):
This next one is a beautiful song about the great Mississippi Flood of 1927. This is a fan made clip and has some images from the flood.
So many people have covered this song, but I love Randy (ummm but you already know that).
'I think it's going to rain today'(live in 2004):
This next one is about racism and cleverly done. It really asks those pointing the finger
to look at themselves.
'Rednecks' (Live in the Netherlands in 1979):
This one is autobiographical, well apart from a few little things. It is Randy solo on piano and live. Fan made clip of images of Randy.
This is such a moving tune and here Randy explains the inspiration behind the song before performing it.
From 1979 (again), 'It's money that I love':
'Lonely at the top' (again live in 1979):
and lastly, live in 2006 'I miss you':