This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Graham Parker will get sacred and profane at the Rubin (photo by twi-ny/mdr)
Graham Parker will get sacred and profane at the Rubin (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th St. at Seventh Ave.
Friday, November 13, $40-$45, 7:00

Over the years, we've seen Graham Parker perform in various amalgamations, with such backing bands as the Figgs and the Rumour as well as solo acoustic, in intimate venues and loud rock clubs. Parker, the witty, acidic songwriter behind such classic tunes as "Local Girls," "Passion Is No Ordinary Word," "Protection," "Stupefaction," "You Can't Be Too Strong," and "Get Started. Start a Fire," among many others, will be playing a special set at the Rubin Museum of Art as part of the Naked Soul series. Parker, who has also written the excellent short-story collection CARP FISHING ON VALIUM, is a consummate entertainer who introduces his songs with biting commentary, self-deprecating humor, and sublime intelligence that is part Richard Thompson, part Robyn Hitchcock, but all GP. If you've never seen him before, take advantage of this splendid opportunity to see one of music's finest in what he is promising will be quite a unique show. As he describes it:  "Where spirituality and sacrilege rub shoulders and get on very well. Yes, the prospect of this totally unplugged gig in the most unusual setting has me digging deep for material that even the GP stalwarts will be delighted with. Or confused. The thematic opportunities have blown my mind. This will be a real one of a kind!" As a bonus, admission to the Rubin is free on Friday nights from 7:00 to 10:00, so after the concert, you should check out such exhibits as "The Red Book of C. G. Jung," "Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection," "From the Land of the Gods: Art of the Kathmandu Valley," and "Mandala: The Perfect Circle." It should be fascinating to see how Parker blends in the Rubin's surroundings into his set.

update: As promised, Parker played a one-of-a-kind set at the Rubin, integrating slides of Himalayan art on view in the museum with songs and stories referencing life and death, heaven and hell, and reincarnation and religion. He boldly spoke about his lack of faith while throwing in such relevant terms as karma, meditation, transcendence, Buddha, bodhisattva, and enlightenment. In fact, at one point he talked about how he used to live on Eighteenth St., with a view of the corner where the Rubin now stands. He related how, when the building was being gutted and turned into Barney’s, he and his friends would wait for the huge rats to dash out at late-night passersby, as Parker and his fellow partiers high-fived, tossed back another, and inhaled, noting that that was the closest he’s probably ever come to enlightenment. He reached deep into his songbook, eschewing familiar hits for such rarely played tunes as “Evil,” “Pollinate,” “Carp Fishing on Valium,” “Museum of Stupidity,” “I Don’t Know,” “Last Stop Is Nowhere,” and the outrageously funny “Syphilis & Religion.” He debuted two songs from his upcoming album, including “You’re Not Where You Think You Are,” and covered Johnny Nash’s appropriate “There Are More Questions than Answers.” He also played “God’s Big Chess Game,” a song by his alter ego, YouTube “sensation” Tex Skerball. Titled “Sacred and Profane” – and yes, there were plenty of profanities, with Parker begging donors not to blame the museum for his language – the performance was perhaps the best researched and curated show we have ever seen, especially for such a one-time-only site-specific event, something that can never be duplicated. After the show, despite Parker’s cynical stance on all religions, including Buddhism, Rubin museum producer Tim McHenry still presented the ribald musician with a kata, a traditional sign of respect, which Parker gladly accepted.

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