The Theater at Gibney 280 Broadway
280 Broadway between Chambers & Reade Sts.
December 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, $15-$20, 8:00
Gibney’s annual DoublePlus program, in which established artists mentor pairs of emerging choreographers, kicks off December 5-7 with Pilipinx-American producer, administrator, contemporary performance manager, and Current Sessions founder Alexis Convento curating works by Korean and black American interdisciplinary artist Dana Davenport and composer and vocal artist Samita Sinha. Davenport will present the new movement piece Experiments for ~Relaxation~, while Sinha debuts Kaalo Jol (“Black Waters”), a duet with Sunny Jain on dhol on Thursday and guitarist Grey Mcmurray on Friday and Saturday. The December 6 show will be preceded at 7:00 by a free Living Gallery site-specific performance of Capital-D Dance by Brooklyn-based dancer, writer, and producer Tara Sheena. The series continues December 12-14 with Alexander Diaz’s Getting closer to Coral and Jennifer Harrison Newman’s topologies, curated by Charmaine Warren, and December 19-21 with Laurel Atwell’s We Wield and Hyung Seok Jeon’s Deep Out Agents, curated by Tei Blow.
The New York City-based Tiffany Mills Company returns to the Flea, where it presented Blue Room last year, for the world premiere of Not then, not yet, running November 13-16 at the downtown theater. The work is a collaboration between dancer-choreographer Mills with Puerto Rican composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón, a founding member of Balún who writes electro-acoustical music for toys, robotic instruments, accordions, ensembles, and orchestras, and Brittany-born neoclassical composer and singer Muriel Louveau; Negrón and Louveau teamed up last week with dancer-choreographer Emily Marie Pope for the improvisational Isterica at National Sawdust, where Negrón is the current artist in residence. Not then, not yet explores transitions through space and time, inspired by the early writings of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley dealing with creation and destruction, isolation, and endings and beginnings. The evening-length piece will be performed by Mills, Pope, Jordan Morley, Kenneth Olguin, Nikolas Owens, and Mei Yamanaka, with lighting by Chris Hudacs and costumes by Pei-Chi Su. Tickets are $15-$20 except for Friday night’s benefit, which are $50 and includes a postshow reception.
ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY BY MARTIN SCORSESE (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
260 West 23rd St.
Thursday, November 7, 9:15
Festival runs November 6-15
“I wouldn’t say it was a traditional revue but it was in the traditional form of a revue — that’s all clumsy bullshit,” Bob Dylan says at the beginning of Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, a documentary about the legendary 1975-76 tour led by Bob with a collection of special guests. “I’m trying to get to the core of what this Rolling Thunder thing is all about, and I don’t have a clue, because it’s about nothing. It’s just something that happened forty years ago. . . . I don’t remember a thing about Rolling Thunder. I mean, it happened so long ago I wasn’t even born. So what do you want to know?” he asks with a wry smile. Scorsese, whose 2005 documentary No Direction Home focused on Dylan’s early years, now takes viewers behind the scenes and onstage of the infamous tour, in which Dylan donned face paint and wore a mask and a southwestern hat with flowers. Along with a load of anecdotes, the film features electrifying versions of such songs as “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below),” “Love Minus Zero / No Limit,” “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” “She Belongs to Me,” “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” and “Romance in Durango,” among many others.
And what a cast it has: Allen Ginsberg as the Oracle of Delphi, Patti Smith as the Punk Poet, Martin von Haselberg as the Filmmaker, Scarlet Rivera as the Queen of Swords, Joan Baez as the Balladeer, Roger McGuinn as the Minstrel, Larry “Ratso” Sloman as the Rolling Stone Reporter, Jim Gianopulos as the Promoter, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott as the Sailor, Sam Shepard as the Writer, David Mansfield as the Innocent, Sharon Stone as the Beauty Queen, Ronnie Hawkins as the Shitkicker, Anne Waldman as the Word Worker, Ronee Blakley as the Ingénue, Joni Mitchell as the Artist, Chief Rolling Thunder as the Medicine Man, Chief Mad Bear as the Chief, Peter La Farge as the Cowboy Indian, Michael Murphy as the Politician, and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter as the Boxer. The film debuted on Netflix but will look and sound much better in a theater; it is screening November 7 at Cinepolis Chelsea as part of the DOC NYC festival and will be followed by a discussion with producer Margaret Bodde and executive producer/editor David Tedeschi.
ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON & THE BAND (Daniel Roher, 2019)
333 West 23rd St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Wednesday, November 6, 7:00 & 7:30
Festival runs November 6-15
The tenth annual DOC NYC festival, which has grown dramatically since its humble beginnings, consisting now of more than three hundred screenings and special events over ten days at three venues, kicks off in a big way on November 6 with Daniel Roher’s Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson & the Band, an intimate, if completely one-sided, look inside one of the greatest, most influential music groups in North American history. The film was inspired by Band cofounder Robbie Robertson’s 2016 memoir, Testimony, offering his take on the Band’s ups and downs, famous battles, and ultimate breakup. “I don’t know of any other group of musicians with a story equivalent to the story of the Band, and it was a beautiful thing. It was so beautiful it went up in flames,” Robertson, sitting in a chair in a vast, empty room, guitars hanging on the wall far behind him, says. The setup puts the focus on Robertson’s individuality, his alone-ness, in what others trumpet as a collection of extraordinary musicians. “There is no band that emphasizes coming together and becoming greater than the sum of their parts, than the Band. Simply their name: The Band. That was it,” fan Bruce Springsteen says. “I was in great awe of their brotherhood. It was the soul of the Band,” notes Eric Clapton, who says he wanted to join the group made up of singer-songwriter and guitarist Robertson, singer and bassist Rick Danko, singer and keyboardist Richard Manuel, singer and drummer Levon Helm, and keyboardist and accordionist Garth Hudson.
When Robertson, who was born in Toronto in 1943, talks about his childhood — his mother was born on the Six Nations of the Grand River Indian reserve, which had a profound effect on him musically, and his biological father was a Jewish gangster, although he was raised by an abusive stepfather — the film is revelatory, with archival photographs and live footage of Robertson’s early bands and his time with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. Robertson shares mesmerizing anecdotes about going electric with Bob Dylan, recording the Basement Tapes in a house called Big Pink, and discussing his craft. “I don’t have much of a process of like I’m thinking about this, and now I’m going to write a song and it’s gonna be about that,” he explains. “A lot of times, the creative process is trying to catch yourself off guard. And you sit down and you’ve got a blank canvas and you don’t know what you’re gonna do and you just see what happens.”
Hawkins speaks glowingly of his protégé Robertson, who wrote his first songs for Hawkins when he was only fifteen. Roher also talks to executive producer Martin Scorsese, Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, record producer John Simon, road manager Jonathan Taplin, equipment manager Bill Scheele, photographer John Scheele, Asylum Records creator David Geffen, and musicians Dylan, Taj Mahal, Peter Gabriel, Van Morrison, and Jimmy Vivino, who all rave about Robertson and the Band. “They were totally in love with their music, and they were in love with each other,” photographer Elliott Landy says. “I never saw any jealousy, I never saw any arguments, I never saw them disagree. They were always supporting each other. They were five brothers, very clearly five brothers who loved each other, and I never saw anything but that.”
Of course, Roher cannot talk to Manuel, Danko, and Helm, who are all dead, and Hudson did not participate in the documentary. Robertson and his wife, Dominique, paint a harrowing picture of the Band’s severe strife as drugs and alcohol tear them apart. There’s really no one, aside from a brief point made by guitarist Larry Campbell, to offer an opposing view to Robertson’s tale, which puts him on a golden throne despite some very public disagreements, particularly with Helm over songwriting credit and royalties. Robertson speaks enthusiastically and intelligently throughout the film, but it’s clear from the get-go that these are his carefully constructed, perhaps selective memories about what happened. But Roher doesn’t disguise that conceit; the film is named after one of Robertson’s solo songs, and the second half of the title is, after all, Robbie Robertson & the Band, as if Robertson is separate from the rest.
One of the main surprises is Robertson’s claim that the Last Waltz concert at Winterland in 1976 was not meant as a farewell but just a pause; Roher and Robertson fail to point out that the group continued to tour and record without Robertson. On his sixth solo album, Sinematic, which was released in September, Robertson has a song about the Band, the aforementioned “Once Were Brothers,” that can be heard at the start of the film. “Oh, once were brothers / Brothers no more / We lost a connection / After the war / There’ll be no revival / There’ll be no one cold / Once were brothers / Brothers no more,” Robertson sings. “When that curtain comes down / We’ll let go of the past / Tomorrow’s another day / Some things weren’t meant to last.” It’s a sad testament to a storied legacy. Packed with amazing photos and live clips that make it a must-see for fans of the group, Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson & the Band is screening at 7:00 and 7:30 on November 6 at the SVA Theatre, with Roher and Robertson on hand to discuss the work.
“Somebody open up the door / Well yeah, I’m back to rock some more / If you’re a little on the shy side / Don’t worry, girl, I’ve got the cure,” Stevie Van Zandt sings on “Communion,” the opening song on his first album of original material in twenty years, Summer of Sorcery. Made with the Disciples of Soul, the record is another electrifying collection of heavy groovin’ rock, pop, R&B, Latin, funk, and soul. Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul were in the midst of a North American jaunt supporting the disc when he had to cut the tour abruptly short on doctor’s orders. “I thought I could shake this sinusitis, but it doesn’t seem to be going away,” he announced in a statement. “I’ve never canceled shows before. I feel terrible about this, but my doctors are telling me there’s just no way to continue right now. I really hope we can make up these dates someday somehow.” Fans in New York, where Stevie lives, and Massachusetts, Bronx-born opener Peter Wolf’s longtime home, have caught a break, however, as Little Steven preserved two dates, November 2 at the Chevalier Theatre in Medford and November 6 at the Beacon; the latter is being recorded for DVD release.
Summer of Sorcery has a cinematic scope with a determinedly summer feel. “Please let this be the first summer of the rest of my life,” he pleads on “Love Again.” On the well-titled “Soul Power Twist,” he sings, “It’s an endless summer night / Liberation’s in the air / I wanna say I love you to everybody everywhere / I see the whole gang they’re all here tonight / They’re making a scene because the time is right.” The girl-group-influenced “A World of Our Own” sounds like it takes place on a street corner on a steamy August day. And the propulsive “Vortex” could be the theme song for a gritty summer action thriller. Van Zandt might be turning sixty-nine later this month, but he’s inextricable from the youthful energy of rock and roll. “Hey, old man, get out of my way / I got no interest in anything you gotta say,” he declares on “Superfly Terraplane.” Little Steven’s live performances features songs from most of his solo albums, from 1982’s Men without Women and 1987’s Freedom — No Compromise to 1989’s Revolution and 2017’s comeback, Soulfire, as well as unexpected covers, including one from his boss of his main gig. Wolf, who has made numerous guest appearances with the E Street Band over the decades, opens things up with the Midnight Travelers, whose latest album is 2016’s A Cure for Loneliness. November 6 should indeed provide a cure with summer long over and the darkness of fall settling in.
Who: Philip Glass, Tom Hare, Anthony Roth Costanzo
What: Conversation, performance, reception
Where: Japan Society, 333 East 47th St. at First Ave., 212-715-1258
When: Wednesday, November 6, $28, 6:30
Why: On November 8, the Met is premiering a new production of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, directed by Phelim McDermott, conducted by Karen Kamensek, and featuring countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo as the monotheistic title pharaoh and mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges as Nefertiti. On November 6, Japan Society is hosting “Composing for the Sun: A Conversation with Philip Glass,” in which the eighty-two-year-old Glass, whose other operas include Einstein on the Beach, In the Penal Colony, Satyagraha, and The Civil Wars: A Tree Is Best Measured When It Is Down, will sit down with Princeton professor Tom Hare to talk about the opera; as a bonus, Costanzo will perform an excerpt from the work, and there will be a post-event reception with the artists. Tickets are sold out, but a waitlist will start one hour before the start time. The presentation is part of Japan Society’s Emperor Series, celebrating Emperor Naruhito’s ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne in May.