I’ve got a new “Think Again” column called “NPR and O’Keefe: Déjà Vu All Over Again,” and it’s here.
First things first: If you’re going to be in the city anytime soon, go see the new production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia which opens on Broadway tonight at the Barrymore Theater. I saw the original, in 1995, and remember loving it. I think it was more elaborate than this one and some people thought it better but I can’t remember. I only know this one is great and made me feel grateful that Tom Stoppard was ever born. It’s a magnificent combination of intellectual stimulation, entertaining banter and profound moral challenge. How he does it, time after time, well, there’s just about nothing like him. You can read about the guy here.
Lucinda Williams’ new album, Blessed is her best in a while; my favorite since the wonderful Essence. I saw her do a spirited set at Webster Hall the other night and the new stuff fit right in with her best work. At this point in her career, she’s reached the point of an Elvis Costello or a Steve Earle where she just has too many great songs in her catalogue to give you everything you want. (I particularly missed the classics from Lucinda Wiliams.) The new songs, however, sounded just as warm and powerful as the old ones. On the album they are smartly produced, but live they work in a more visceral way. You can read all about the record here.
I also caught a lovely solo performance by Randy Newman at Town Hall. It’s hard to know how much of his self-hatred shtick is real. If I had written as many brilliant songs as Randy, I’d feel pretty good, about that anyway. He’s become a kind of Hollywood icon for his gooey movie work, but the “real” material is as bitter and biting and brilliant as ever. It’s also, I’ve noticed, impossible for anyone else to play. Randy has just released his second “songbook” volume, in which he plays his old songs on solo piano. When I heard it, I ordered the first one, which had somehow slipped by. If you are unfamiliar with his work, these are a good introduction, but you’ll want more. Info about the record is here.