Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Rickie Lee Jones, Birchmere, 7.25.05

In the full blossom of her life, Rickie Lee Jones now has the voice of 14 completely baked angels on an eternal hash-oil toot. She is so intense, so keyed, in her vocal delivery that sometimes she simply dispenses with consonants altogether and just makes do with vowels -- and yet even in these exalted moments her meaning, her dream-algebra, the holy truth of Woman-Mind, is clear as purest water.

This, my friends, is an Artist.

Last night at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Rickie Lee teetered on the edge of reason, moaning ecstatically her oneiric verses, hopscotching through Illusion, through Maya, like an acid waif through cornflowers, head-faking a slip over the edge into jibbering irrationality but never falling. Always recovering, a perfect high-wire act.

Looking dreamily out into the audience: "So many stories... So many stories in this room. And I know 'em all. It's hard work!" She giggles, gamine, knowing she's reminded us of who else thinks mere living is "hard work."

Jesus Christ with an SM-58, that woman can sing the living shit out of a song! She's not particularly concerned with hitting notes on the head (although perfectly capable of it) but instead she's a sovereign interpreter, sliding into notes, risking blowing everything but supremely confident that nothing is irretrievable, squeezing every drop of meaning out of the lyric. Each line fraught. Pregnant. Loaded.

Music for adults.
There's nothing that has ever been
That isn't loved
By someone who waits
Exactly. Yes.

Near the end of the gig, Rickie began to introduce a song called Tell Somebody (Repeal The Patriot Act Now). In a perfect world, were yin and yang are in perfect balance, you'd be able at a moment's notice to drop out of hippie-waif mode and into incisive-pundit mode and hurl perfectly reasoned polemic at your tormentors -- only to slip back into your customary dreaminess when you're done.

But that's not Rickie Lee Jones. Her argument from the stage, such as it was, appealed to emotion rather than logic, intuition not facts. A woman's argument. A yin argument. An argument from Yoni.

This is not at all a knock against her. I wish fervently to find in my own mind the ability to summon a "woman's argument." If more of us had "woman's argument" inside us, the world would be a safer and saner place.

Rickie Lee stood on stage and argued as an artist. That is, the reason she is so utterly spellbindingly good as a singer is that she spends all her time in Artspace, where empathy and intuition and love and irrationality are the currency, a place where linearity and causality are banished. She sees the world through those eyes. Only those eyes.

And that was the world that spoke through her mouth when she spoke of the Patriot Act.

She irritated someone in the audience with her circularity, this Washington audience, this unreliably sympathetic Washington audience.

"Sing a song!"

It's like a boot to the chest. It's like a jackboot in the face. It's like watching a leather riding boot grinding down on a butterfly. What has just entered the room and crushed its cigar out on your heart is what it's like to live in George Bush's America. It feels like an axe on your neck.

"Sing a song!"

You know what the guy's thinking, right? (Of course it's a guy.) You know what battle this mouthbreather thinks he's fighting don't you? It's this one.

It's where all interaction between humans is reduced to an economic transaction. Where every man is either a pimp or a john, and every woman a whore. Where art is utterly meaningless, because the Customer Must Be Satisfied. I paid thirty-five fuckin' bucks to watch Rickie Lee Jones sing, and I don't want to hear a bunch of crap about love and peace and the fuckin' Patriot Act! Hey, jukebox! Hey, fuckin' Song Machine! I put my nickel in, now fuckin' SING!

I too try to live in Empathy-Land with Rickie Lee, and maybe that's my problem, but I fail utterly to understand Frother assholes who profess to love music. Are they so completely dense that they don't understand that the words in the songs they claim to love and understand are identical to the words they try to forbid Rickie Lee Jones from saying between the songs?

Rickie Lee, all 5'2" of her, all dreamy-hippie-waif-gamine of her, was boiling furious.

"I stood up here for an hour and a half singing for you, and now that I want to say something, that's what I get? Get the fuck out of here!"

No one moved. No one dared.

"I'm glad you decided to stick around, but don't you ever fuckin' tell me to shut up!"

We didn't get an encore.


Anonymous said...

My right-wing boss, who listens to Rush Limbaugh, loves Peter Paul and Mary, loves them. Not sure what it is, or why, mayby the goodness of art.

Anonymous said...

Good for HER! Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Dems should take BIG notice!

Anonymous said...

I don't know why I'm ashamed when I see or hear this type of thing. Of course, it's the asshole who creates this situation that should be ashamed. But they ain't never, natch.

No wonder Bush finally got himself elected on the second try.

Anonymous said...

Rickie Lee Jones doesn't do anything for me and never did, but I have to admire her style in dealing with hecklers. Good on her!

Her argument from the stage, such as it was, appealed to emotion rather than logic, intuition not facts. A woman's argument.

If we can please, however, get beyond the auto-calculus assignation of emotion to women, that would really be a big, big step, in my opinion.

Men get emotional and women can be icy thinkers and frothing assholes.

We all have nipples, don't we?

Beyond that mild objection to the post, I wanted to say that your writing reminds me of Margaret Atwood's, whose work I love to read. Your words have that same kind of viscerally poetic flow.

Neddie said...

So that's, what, about a B-plus?

Derryl Murphy said...

Good for her. Hope the guy's sphincter puckered right up and his wife beat the shit out of him on the drive home.

Years ago, when we lived in Utah,my wife drove down to Park City to see Steve Earle in an 1800-seat bar (yes, in Utah). His sister Stacey opened for him, and all through her set idiot frat boys who'd paid $30 a ticket just to drink beer and talk real loud drank beer and, yes, talked real loud.

Stacey said, "I want to share with you somethin' my brother Steve once said, and that's SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Worked for about five minutes, and then they yapped all through Steve's mind-blowing set as well. But those of us there to enjoy the music had a good laugh, at least.


Lance Mannion said...

I am absolutely convinced that I saw Rickie Lee in concert when she and I and the world were young. Absolutely convinced of it. But it's too good to be true. Must be one of those dreams of another life we all have.

Jealous, man, absolutely jealous. Not just that you saw her live but that you can write about it in a way that makes me feel what it was I missed.

Cut that out.

Anonymous said...

as John Stewart put it on Crossfire when Tucker Carlson commanded him to "be funny": "No. No. I'm not going to be your monkey."

great post.

grishaxxx said...

Did she get any kind of a hand for that? She deserved one.
One of my playlist treasures is a live Lush Life of hers - maybe my favorite version of that killer song.
Envy you having been there, Neddie.

Anonymous said...

Jeddie Ningo -- I love you -- not in "The Old Tübingen Steak" kind of way, but in the "how do you compose those gorgeous, angelic sentences that makes my heart skip a beat" kind of way.

You're special. Hope you get better soon -- wouldn't want you to fall, um, behind. That would be a, um, bummer.

Ok. My jokes are lame. I'm such an, um, ass.


Anonymous said...

It's easy to talk tough when you're on stage and the only one with a mike. Everyone else is at a disadvantage. She needed to shut the hell up. People didn't plunk down money to hear her spout her idiotic politics. It's funny how liberals view the right to free speech: they're free to say whatever they like, but then take offense when their opponents exercise their own right to free speech and tell her to fuck off.

Rachael // Paraders said...

at the Portage Theater
Saturday, February 24