Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hot Rocks

Frolicking. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, March 15, 2012.  It was in the 70s yesterday in New York. Unseasonably warm, we used to say. Now maybe it’s seasonably norm. Probably not, however. It stayed warm.

I met Kathy S at Trattoria dell’Arte on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 57th Street at 6:30. I hadn’t been there in years but I remembered it was good. Kathy told me she’s been there many times because she often goes to Carnegie Hall. She loves Carnegie Hall and takes it all in. She even walks there (she lives in the East Sixties). We shared a Margherita pizza and then the spaghetti with pesto.

Hermes Pan.
Aside: I have loved pesto ever since Hermes Pan made it for me for dinner at his house in Beverly Hills, one night in the early 80s. Hermes and I and a business partner were working on a story of his life. He had an amazingly varied career. He also had the gift of enjoying himself. Pan was Pan in real life. When Joe Mankiewicz was putting together a production of “Cleopatra” with Elizabeth Taylor in the early 60s, he hired Hermes to choreograph Cleopatra’s Entrance to Rome. Mankiewicz told Pan he could do anything he wanted, just use his imagination.

Hermes was contracted for several weeks shooting in Rome. But then Richard Burton came on the set and lit the fires of Taylor and they were off and running in the biggest, most famous affair since Antony and Cleopatra (or George and Martha, take your pick). The Burton-Taylor affair became the box office hit but it slowed production to a stand still.

Poor Hermes Pan had the great good misfortune of having to remain in Rome for more than a year. With nothing to do but have a good time, and come up with spectacular ideas for a parade. (One of his favorite ideas was hiring a corps of real Watusi dancers, bringing them in from Africa. Seven-foot-tall Watusis waiting for Burton and Taylor to come out of their tabloidal dressing room was costly, and dropped.) In the meantime, Hermes learned to cook … and make pesto. Pasta al pesto. It was his favorite dish, and since then it’s been one of mine too.

That was the first time I’d ever had it. It’s practically a staple on my at-home cuisine, and has been for all these years since. They have very good pesto at Sette Mezzo, when it’s on the menu.
The famous Cleopatra's entrance into Rome as portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor in a sequence created by Hermes Pan for the 1962 film "Cleopatra."
All this from meeting Kathy before the concert in Carnegie Hall. Which was the real star of the night: “The Music of the Rolling Stones; Hot Rocks 1964 – 1971.” Produced by Michael Dorf. Mr. Dorf, who has been producing music in New York for 25 years, put this together. It is part of Carnegie Hall’s “Tribute” series which he’s been bringing about – including the Music of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen Elton John, Neil Sedaka, REM, the Who and Neal Young. He’s also done the program Central Park Summerstage with the Music of Simon & Garfunkel

Kathy and I both came of age on this music. And music always takes us some place else, and in my case anyway, it’s an easy pick for nostalgia. I recently found 70s Retro on my iTunes radio not long along. WOGL somewhere. The other night I just got up and danced to some of that 70s disco. The dogs thought I was losing it.
Last night’s program promised that. And as soon as it began (we were told at the outset that the program would end precisely at 10:21. And it did. Kinda.); as soon as it began, we were all back there, somewhere else in those days, those times.

Except of course we were in Carnegie Hall – the lot of us – the place was packed right up through the fourth balcony. And because it was a rock concert, people dressed casually – more casually than some (not all) of them would. And because the place was filled with rock fans, there were a lot of bald and balding boys in the audience, and they were into it. Of course.
David Johansen.
Steve Earle.
Ian Hunter and the Rant Band.
I also love the popular American music of my mother and father’s generation – the Songbook as it is referred to today. If you put it in the context of history, this has been the “folk  and classic music of the 20th century civilization. And full of message if you listen across a span of time you get a sense of what that time was like. The message of the era of the Gershwins, Porter, Berlin, etc. was gentle and romantic, and often witty and amusing, or heart rending and sad. The message that came in with the Stones and other groups took on some harsher and to the then new generation, realistic shades. When Mick sings “Under My Thumb,” it ain’t a gentle thumb. But it resounded. The men and women in the audience last night know that story. Their parents probably wouldn’t have wanted to even hear it. Moving along, is what it is.

The cast of performers was fabulous. Singing 21 songs from the Stones songbook. Having grown up with that music, I still think of it as strictly theirs – the Stones. I  mean: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash is a gas gas gas…”? Or “19th Nervous Breakdown”?
Jackson Browne.
Angelique Kidjo.
Rickie Lee Jones.
Some of those performers weren’t alive when a lot of those albums came out. Funny. Didn’t matter. The master is the master and these musicians followed. Kathy told me she heard Jagger was in town. We wondered if he were in the audience. I wondered what he would have felt seeing all of these people perform these great songs of his and giving it their shade, and watching the audience thrill to it all.

I mean, Peaches singing “Heart of Stone.” It was hers last night. Hers and Mick’s of course. But brand new. Or Juliette Lewis doing “Satisfaction.” Hers.
Taj Mahal.
Roseanne Cash.
Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Here’s the songs, in order of performance:

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – Jovanetti and members of TV on the Radio.
“Times Is On My Side” Ronnie Spector, yes it is…
“Heart of Stone” Peaches
“Play with Fire” Rich Robinson
“Satisfaction” Juliette Lewis
“As Tears Go By” Marianne Faithfull
“Get Off My Cloud” David Johansen
“Mother’s Little Helper” Steve Earle
“19th Nervous Breakdown” Ian Hunter and the Rant Band
“Paint It Black” The Mountain Goats
“Under My Thumb” Glen Hansard
“Ruby Tuesday” Art Garfunkel
“Let’s Spend the Night Together” Jackson Browne
“Jumpin Jack Flash” Gomez
“Street Fightng Man” Angelique Kidjo (fabulous!)
“Sympathy for the Devil” “ Rickie Lee Jones
“Honky Tonk Woman” Taj Mahal
“Gimme Shelter” Roseanne Cash
“Midnight Rambler” Carolina Chocolate Drops
“Brown Sugar” Jackie Greene
“Wild Horses” Marc Cohn, accompanied by Roseanne Cash and Jackson Browne
Jackie Green.
Marc Cohn accompanied by Jackson Brown and Roseanne Cash.
Marianne Faithfull.
In the finale Mary Ann Faithfull came back to sing the first song she and Mick wrote, “Sister Morphine.”

It was a benefit last night. 100% of the net profit from the evening benefits Church Street School for Music & Art, the Pinwheel Project, Music Unites, The American Symphony Orchestra, Young Audiences New York, Fixing Instruments for Kids in Schools, The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, Midon and Friends, and the Center for Arts Education.

Twenty-two songs, a final group number of everyone on stage, and it wasn’t quite ten-thirty. The album Hot Rocks 1964 – 1971 which was performed last night, was first released in 1971. It was the Stones’ first compilation and remains the highest selling release of their career. It was a great way to spend a beautiful almost summer night in New York. In a real cathedral of talent, genius, and joy. A gift.
The cast on stage for the finale.
That’s John Sebastian, second from left in black shirt.
The clamoring crowd giving them a standing ovation.

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