You guys have heard of Stew, right? He's the portly, one-name, arty black rocker guy who co-wrote last year's off-Broadway-to-Broadway musical hit Passing Strange, about an arty black rocker guy from L.A. who moves to Amsterdam and feels truly free as an arty black rocker, then moves to Berlin and has to promote how oppressed he is as a black guy to fit in with the arty anarchy crowd.
There is a lot of good rocker-type music in Passing Strange, not least the welcome-to-Amsterdam anthem "Keys (It's Alright)." So we were excited to go to the sleekly refurbished Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center Friday night for a special performance by Stew-man himself, plus his songwriting partner Heidi Rodewald, a big, fat band and the Passing Strange ladies singing back-up.
One thing we like about Stew is that even though he apparently isn't gay, he makes a lot of effete faces and hand gestures that suggest he doesn't mind appearing gay. And then he sang a song about Barbie's beard that went, "My name's Ken and I like men," and how he'd rather be with G.I. Joe than be "forced to kiss Barbie's plastic tits." But then Stew made it abundantly clear he was a vaginophile with the song "Submarine Down." He told the packed, and mostly uptown-looking, house: "It's about cunnilingus and other things. We'll never play Lincoln Center again after this." When the song was over, he noted dryly that the women in the audience would understand why the big solo went to the tuba player, and someone shouted out, "Awesome!"
Some of Stew's songs feel a bit like sing-song-y novelties, like "Rehab," which begins, "When she got out of rehab for the very first time, she was very optimistic," then goes on to narrate what happened when she got out of rehab the following two dozen times or so. But then Stew comes with songs like the sweet "Flatbush Avenue on Sunday" or the Springsteenian young-love tale "North Bronx French Marie" songs that, like "Keys," capture the thrill of being young and in love, feeling suddenly like you have the whole world at your feet, or simply being out the house one fine morning, grateful to be alive. We're really into this Stew and we hope there's much more of him and his Big Gay Al type hand gestures to come.
-- TIM MURPHY
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