Tuesday - Sunday through December 30, $30-$50
The front cover of Michael Leigh’s 1963 paperback, The Velvet Underground, declares, “Here is an incredible book. It will shock and amaze you. But as a documentary on the sexual corruption of our age, it is a must for every thinking adult.” Fittingly, one of the most influential bands in music history took its name from that tome, one of many facts one can learn at “The Velvet Underground Experience,” a pop-up exhibit continuing in Greenwich Village through December 30. From 1964 to 1970, the Velvet Underground released four studio albums that ultimately helped change the face of rock and roll and thoroughly situated music amid the avant-garde art world. The exhibition consists of hundreds of photographs (by Fred W. McDarrah, Stephen Shore, Nat Finkelstein, Billy Name, and others), archival footage, six new short nonfiction films, and biographical stations dedicated to each band member — Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, Angus MacLise, Nico, Doug Yule, and Walter Powers — in addition to others who played a role in the band’s development, including Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick, Danny Williams, Gerard Malanga, Candy Darling, Piero Heliczer, Jonas Mekas, Barbara Rubin, La Monte Young, and Allen Ginsberg. Allan Rothschild’s twelve-minute film goes back and forth between the childhoods of Reed and Cale, revealing fascinating similarities and differences (for example, they were born merely a week apart in March 1942), and Reed’s younger sister, Merrill Reed Weiner, shares intimate details about her brother’s psychological issues. Véronique Jacquinet’s ten-minute work traces the rise of Christa Päffgen, better known as Nico.
Curated by Christian Fevret, and Carole Mirabello and designed by Matali Crasset, the exhibition is centered by a tentlike structure where visitors can lie down on silver mattresses and watch projections of rare, short films surrounding the band’s debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, aka the Banana Album, and the live show known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Warhol’s screen tests of the band run continuously on one wall. Tony C. Janelli and Robert Pietri’s animated short, The Velvet Underground Played at My High School, is a fun film about the band’s first gig at Summit High School in New Jersey in December 1965 (opening for the Myddle Class), which did not exactly go over so well, save for its impact on one fifteen-year-old student. Downstairs is a look at what Greenwich Village was like in the 1960s and 1970s, with clips of Nico, Cale, and Reed’s acoustic reunion show in 1972 in Le Bataclan, a split-screen tribute to Rubin by Mekas, and experimental works from the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, including Rubin’s X-rated art-porn favorite, Christmas on Earth. (There is also a lower level where talks are held on Tuesday nights and concerts on Thursday evenings.) And of course, there’s the music, with multiple versions of such songs as “I’m Waiting for the Man,” “Venus in Furs,” “Femme Fatale,” “Heroin,” and “Sweet Jane” (from the group’s four main albums, The Velvet Underground & Nico, White Light/White Heat, The Velvet Underground, and Loaded) echoing through the space. “The Velvet Underground Experience” is not an exhaustive study of the band, and it does have a lot of peripheral material in the New York City section, probably because the show was originally presented in Paris, but it is still a treat for VU devotees and those curious about a seminal moment in the history of music.
Hanukkah is about to start and Christmas is only a few weeks away, so the city is filling up with holiday-themed comedy shows, concerts, and special events. They range from classical performances at the Met and Carnegie Hall to hip-hop, soul, and rock extravaganzas at smaller clubs to Jewish takes on the season. Below is a sampling of some of the cooler events; keep watching this space for more additions.
Sunday, December 2
Hanukkah Family Day, art, music, and more for children ages three and up, with Josh & the Jamtones, Jeff Hopkins, Jewish Museum, free with museum admission (children eighteen and under free), 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sunday, December 2
Sunday, December 9
The 8 Nights of Hanukkah with Yo La Tengo, Bowery Ballroom, $40, 7:30
Monday, December 3
Tenth Annual Latke Festival, benefiting the Sylvia Center, Brooklyn Museum, $75-$120, 6:00
Holiday Cheer for FUV, with John Prine, the Lone Bellow, and Shannon Shaw, Beacon Theatre, $90.50 - $301, 8:00
Elon Gold and Modi: A Hanukkah Miracle, with Sherrod Small and Talia Reese, Stand Up NY, $20-$40, 8:00 & 9:45
Thursday, December 6
Festival of Light w/ Matisyahu and special guests the Soul Rebels and GRiZ plus friends, Brooklyn Steel, $30-$35, 8:00
Saturday, December 8
The Cecilia Chorus of New York with Orchestra: HANDEL Messiah, with soprano Shakèd Bar, tenor Michael St. Peter, bass William Guanbo Su, and countertenor Nicholas Tamagna, Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, $25-$85, 8:00
Cyndi Lauper & Friends: Home for the Holidays, benefit for True Colors Fund, with Amanda Palmer, Angie Stone, A$AP Rocky, Bebe Rexha, Bishop Briggs, Charlie Musselwhite, Dr. Elmo, Gina Yashere, Natalie Merchant, Regina Spektor, Robert Glasper, Sara Ramirez, Shea Diamond, and the Knocks, hosted by Carson Kressley, Beacon Theatre, $50-$150, 8:00
Sunday, December 9
For the Miracles: A Holiday Celebration, with the Young People’s Chorus of New York City performing Samuel Adler’s The Flames of Freedom and Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, conducted by Elizabeth Núñez, Met Fifth Ave., Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, $65 (bring a child for $1), 3:00
Holiday Concert, featuring Scandinavian and American holiday favorites and Saint Lucia procession with traditional gowns and glowing candles, with members of the Swedish Church Choir in New York, Scandinavia House, $25, 5:00
The 12th Annual Menorah Horah Hanukkah Burlesque Show, with the Schlep Sisters (Minnie Tonka and Darlinda Just Darlinda), Sapphire Jones, Zoe Ziegfeld, the Great Dubini, Allegra, host Bastard Keith, DJ Momotaro, Rara Darling, and Madame Brassiere, Highline Ballroom, $25-$50, 8:00
Friday, December 14
Yule Dogs: A Very Mercury Christmas, with Wormburner, Christopher John Campion with Mad Staggers, and special guests Lifeguard Nights, Mercury Lounge, $12-$15, 7:00
Sunday, December 16
Unsilent Night, participatory boombox concert with Phil Kline, Washington Square Park, free, 6:00
Monday, December 17
Ingrid Michaelson’s Twelfth Annual Holiday Hop, Beacon Theatre, $44.50 - $64.50, 8:00
Oratorio Society of New York: HANDEL Messiah, conducted by Kent Tritle, with soprano Leslie Fagan, countertenor Daniel Moody, tenor Isaiah Bell, bass-baritone Joseph Beutel, and the Chorus and Orchestra of the Society, Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, $28-$100, 8:00
Tuesday, December 18
KTU Holiday House Party w/ Why Don’t We, Highline Ballroom, $10 (proceeds benefit Cookies for Kids Cancer), 6:00
Saturday, December 22
Ronnie Spector & the Ronettes: Best Christmas Party Ever!, City Winery, $55-$75, 8:00
Sunday, December 23
Christmas Ball — A Merry Evening of Opera, Operetta, and Christmas Songs: Talents of the World Festival at Carnegie Hall, with bass William Meinert, baritone David Gvinianidze, baritone Oleksandr Kyreiev, tenor Arsen Soghomonyan, soprano Ruslana Koval, soprano Tamar Iveri, soprano Olga Lisovskaya, and the winner of the Talents of the World International Competition, Zankel Hall, $65-$95, 7:00
Monday, December 24
A Very Jewish Christmas, with Marion Grodin, James Goff, Sam Morril, Jared Freid, and others, Gotham Comedy Club, $25, 7:00 & 9:00
Tuesday, January 1
Ninth Annual New Year’s Day w/ Joseph Arthur & Lee Ranaldo, City Winery, $20-$28, 8:00
South African multidisciplinary artist and certified genius William Kentridge creates charcoal drawings, live-action and animated films, operas, multimedia installations, museum and gallery exhibitions, sculptures, collages, chamber pieces, university lectures, circus-like processions, and one-man shows, including a recent performance of Kurt Schwitters’s Ursonate Dada speech at Harlem Parish. For his latest unique, complex presentation, he is bringing the eighty-five-minute The Head & the Load to the Park Avenue Armory, where it will run December 4-15. The work was commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Park Avenue Armory along with Ruhrtriennale and MASS MoCA as part of the centenary of the end of WWI. “The Head & the Load is about Africa and Africans in the First World War. That is to say about all the contradictions and paradoxes of colonialism that were heated and compressed by the circumstances of the war,” Kentridge explains on the event website. “It is about historical incomprehension (and inaudibility and invisibility). The colonial logic towards the black participants could be summed up: ‘Lest their actions merit recognition, their deeds must not be recorded.’ The Head & the Load aims to recognise and record.” The title comes from the Ghanaian proverb “The head and the load are the troubles of the neck,” and the work pays tribute to African porters and carriers who served the French, German, and British armies during the war.
The technical aspects of productions are always pristine. Kentridge is credited with concept and design and is the director; his longtime collaborator, Philip Miller, composed the score and handled the music concept and orchestration, while Thuthuka Sibisi is cocomposer and music director. The projection design is by Catherine Meyburgh, with Janus Fouché, Žana Marović, and Meyburgh doing video editing and compositing. The choreographer is Gregory Maqoma, with cinematography by Duško Marović, costumes by Greta Goiris, sets by Sabine Theunissen, lighting by Urs Schönebaum, and sound by Mark Grey. The North American premiere at the armory will be performed by actors Mncedisi Shabangu, Hamilton Dlamini, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, and associate director Luc De Wit; featured vocalists and musicians Joanna Dudley, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, Ann Masina, Bham Ntabeni, Sipho Seroto, N`Faly Kouyate on kora, Mario Gotoh on viola, Tlale Makhene on percussion, and Vincenzo Pasquariello on piano (among other members of the Knights chamber orchestra); dancers Maqoma, Julia Zenzie Burnham, Thulani Chauke, Xolani Dlamini, Nhlanhla Mahlangu; and ensemble vocalists Mhlaba Buthelezi, Ayanda Eleki, Grace Magubane, Ncokwane Lydia Manyama, Tshegofatso Moeng, Mapule Moloi, Lindokuhle Thabede, and Motho Oa Batho. Kentridge, Miller, and Sibisi will participate in an artist talk on December 6 at 6:30 with Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford, placing The Head & the Load in political context.
“The test is really to find an approach that is not an analytic dissection of a historical moment, but which doesn’t avoid the questions of history. Can one find the truth in the fragmented and incomplete? Can one think about history as collage, rather than as narrative?” Kentridge asks. “Carrying through the idea of history as collage, the libretto of The Head & the Load is largely constructed from texts and phrases from a range of writers and sources, cut-up, interleaved, and expanded. Frantz Fanon translated into siSwati; Tristan Tzara in isiZulu; Wilfred Owen in French and dog-barking; the conference of Berlin, which divided up Africa, rendered as sections from Kurt Schwitters’s Ursonate; phrases from a handbook of military drills; Setswana proverbs from Sol Plaatje’s 1920 collection; some lines from Aimé Césaire.” Meanwhile, Miller and Sibisi explain, “During the First World War, the English Committee for the Welfare of Africans sent hymn books, harmonicas, gramophones, and banjos to the African battalions so that they could entertain themselves. What songs of war, love, and longing might have been made by these African men in the trenches on the Western Front or in the camps of East Africa? . . . What did the Great War sound like to the African soldiers and carriers who fought in it? Their experiences were not considered significant enough to be recorded or archived. We can only imagine the noises they heard or the music they made, through the multitude of voices and sounds we have created in The Head & the Load.” As always with Kentridge, expect the unexpected, and the extraordinary.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, December 1, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum celebrates the world’s preeminent borough again in its monthly free First Saturday program in December with the second part of “Best of the Borough.” There will be live music by Deva Mahal, Roze Royze of Set It Off, the Soul Summit Music Festival, and Jimi Tents; a curator tour of Egyptian art with senior curator Ed Bleiberg; Cave Canem pop-up poetry readings by Hafizah Geter, Cynthia Manick, and Nicholas Nichols; the artist talk “Something to Say” with Kameelah Janan Rasheed and Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine; a screening of Brooklyn Film Festival “Best Brooklyn Project” winner Catch One Bedroom (Darien Sills-Evans, 2018), followed by a Q&A with members of the cast and crew; a tour of the museum’s history during the Black Power era with archivist Molly Seegers; a screening of Digging for Black Pride (Philip Burton Jr., 1971) sponsored by the Weeksville Heritage Center and followed by a discussion with Zenzele Cooper and Obden Mondesir; pop-up gallery talks with teen apprentices on “Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection”; a hands-on art workshop with figure drawing of live models inspired by Kehinde Wiley; and two Day With(out) Art screenings of Alternate Endings, Activist Risings, featuring short films from ACT UP NY, Positive Women’s Network, Sero Project, the SPOT, Tacoma Action Collective, and VOCAL NY, presented by Visual AIDS. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” “Kwang Young Chun: Aggregations,” “Syria, Then and Now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart,” “Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection,” “Rob Wynne: FLOAT,” “Infinite Blue,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” and more.
In 1978, I saw my first Bob Dylan show, at Madison Square Garden. At one point my friend said to me, “What the hell is he doing? I just want to hear ‘Tangled up in Blue.’ ” I turned to him and said, “Um, that last song was ‘Tangled up in Blue.’ ” For more than forty years, the so-called Voice of a Generation has been fiddling with his vast catalog, reimagining classic songs and focusing on new material during his Never Ending Tour, which thunders into the Beacon for seven shows November 24 to December 1. He has previously played the venue twenty-one times, beginning in October 1989, including memorable performances with Patti Smith in December 1995. All these decades later, if you’re expecting the seventy-seven-year-old troubadour to change his stripes, well, that just isn’t going to happen. So it was with great anticipation that I entered the Beacon on November 26, and Dylan did not disappoint. Exclusively playing a baby grand piano — occasionally sitting, more often standing or just leaning against a high piano bench — along with some fine harmonica, Dylan did not alter his basic setlist one iota from any other show on this leg of the tour (although occasionally he switches an encore). Dylan was joined by Donnie Herron on pedal steel, lap steel, electric mandolin, banjo, and violin, Charlie Sexton on lead guitar, Tony Garnier on electric and stand-up bass, and George Receli on drums, each wearing silver sequined jackets, black boots, and black pants. (Rhythm guitarist Stu Kimball dropped out earlier this month.) Dylan was dressed in black-and-white boots, a black shirt with a bolo tie, and a loose cross between a kimono and a cowboy jacket ennobled with glinting swirls of blue and white embroidery. No hat perched atop his huge shock of curly (evenly brown) hair, and no pencil-thin mustache ornamented his occasional sardonic grins. The hundred-minute show was a mix of folk, pop, rock, blues, jazz, and even a little jumpin’ jive, a cacophony of sound centered around Dylan’s still-remarkable vocal phrasings.
For the last several years, one thing that hasn’t changed is Dylan’s opening song, the Oscar-winning “Things Have Changed,” written for Curtis Hanson’s 2000 film, Wonder Boys. “People are crazy and times are strange / I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range / I used to care, but things have changed,” Dylan sings, but don’t be fooled by his lack of patter with the audience (he did actually introduce the band during at least one of the shows); Dylan is fully engaged in the music as he proceeds through his carefully selected setlist. Five of the next six tunes dated no later than 1971, but in each case, the audience did not applaud with recognition until they caught familiar words in the chorus, since the arrangements were so displaced from the original versions, and even some of the lyrics were altered, making it hard to sing along; but that’s exactly what makes these Dylan concerts so exciting. (I use binoculars not only to see his facial expressions, which include a smiling grimace, but also to read his lips to figure out what he is warbling.)
He also employs a sly sense of humor; he reimagines “Simple Twist of Fate,” only to let the missing melody line later appear in “Make You Feel My Love.” Be prepared for a host of songs from 2001’s Love and Theft, 2006’s Modern Times, and 2012’s Tempest but nothing from his American songbook or Christmas albums, and there’s not a dud in the bunch. On a sizzling “Scarlet Town,” Dylan headed to center stage and grabbed the microphone stand, adopting a few rock-star poses as he belted out the bluesy 2012 tune with a Middle Eastern lilt, declaring, “If love is a sin then beauty is a crime / All things are beautiful in their time / The black and the white, the yellow and the brown / It’s all right there for ya in Scarlet Town.” His regal reinvention of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” made it vital once more.
The only uncomfortable moment came during the first encore, an update of “All Along the Watchtower” in which he suddenly stopped the song and seemed to be angry, either at a technical issue or a person in the front snapping his picture — who just happened to be Ringo Starr, who posted the awful photo to social media; Dylan returned to the song but it never regained its steam. (Paul McCartney took in an earlier Beacon show.) The key to experiencing a Dylan concert is to just let Bob be Bob. There’s still no other musician who can so adroitly capture the heart and soul of life and love and the state of the nation in such unique ways. He doesn’t just sing but virtually spits and swallows words, a bittersweet outpouring that can rattle your core with a beautiful glory. Go to the Beacon with no expectations other than to be uniquely entertained, challenged, and confused, and keep those cell phones off and don’t try to sneak pictures or text friends. More than at most shows, you need to pay attention to every rapt minute, and if Dylan hasn’t earned that respect from you, then just stay home and binge Netflix.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, November 3, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum explores art and Black Power in the November edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Antoine Drye, Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe, and the Brooklyn Dance Festival; an Art & Dialogue discussion with curators Valerie Cassel Oliver and Catherine Morris; a hands-on workshop in which participants can create miniature paintings inspired by jazz and the work of Alma Thomas, William T. Williams, and others; a curator tour of “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” with Ashley James; original poetry and music by Jaime Lee Lewis, Jennifer Falu, Joekenneth Museau, Asante Amin, Frank Malloy, and Terry Lovette in addition to excerpts from the 1968 collection Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing; pop-up poetry with Sean DesVignes, Joel Dias-Porter, and Omotara James of Cave Canem; an “Archives as Raw History” tour with archivist Molly Seegers; and the community talk “Black Art Futures Fund.” In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” “Syria, Then and Now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart,” “One: Do Ho Suh,” “Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection,” “Something to Say: Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine, Deborah Kass, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Hank Willis Thomas,” “Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu,” “Rob Wynne: FLOAT,” “Infinite Blue,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” and more.
178 Second Ave. between Eleventh & Twelfth Sts.
Friday, October 19, and Saturday, October 20, $20 in advance, $25 at the door, $20 food/beverage minimum, 9:30
Friday, November 16, and Saturday, November 17, $20 in advance, $25 at the door, $20 food/beverage minimum, 9:30
In a November 2015 twi-ny talk, Raquel Cion said, “Isn’t it great to be amidst a flurry of Bowie activity?” referring to Bowie’s sudden resurgence with an off-Broadway musical, new album, and various other new songs. “Oh, I have so much to say,” she added. Cion continues to have much to say as the show keeps evolving, especially following Bowie’s death in January 2016 at the age of sixty-nine; the massive success of the immensely popular “David Bowie is” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, for which you need to get timed tickets in advance; and Cion’s own battle with breast cancer, which she bravely documented on social media.
In Me & Mr. Jones: My Intimate Relationship with David Bowie, librarian and chanteuse Cion reflects on her life through her worship of Bowie — who was born David Jones — singing Bowie songs and sharing deeply personal anecdotes that are both moving and funny. She is not a Bowie impersonator; she interprets Bowie’s extraordinary music with intelligence, verve, and love. She continues the fall residency of her glittery multimedia performance, which was nominated for a 2015 New York Cabaret Award for Best Musical Comedy or Alt Cabaret Show, at Pangea October 19-20 and November 16-17, joined by Jeremy Bass on guitar, Daniel Shuman on bass, Michael Ryan Morales on drums, and music director Karl Saint Lucy on piano. If you’ve seen it before, Cion is promising significant ch-ch-ch-changes for this iteration. The show is directed by Cynthia Cahill, and Cion’s glam outfits are by David Quinn. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door, with a $20 food and beverage minimum.