Saturday, February 21, 2009

Duncan Sheik and Spring Awakening

There's a moment you know...
You're fucked
Not an inch more room to self-destruct
No more moves, oh yeah
The dead end zone
Man, you just can't call your soul your own

But the thing that makes you really jump
Is that the weirdest shit is still to come
You can ask yourself "Hey, what have I done?"
You're just a fly
The little guys, they kill for fun

Man, you're fucked if you just freeze up
Can't do that thing, that keeping still
But you're fucked if you speak your mind
And you know, uh huh, you will

Yeah, you're fucked all right
And all for spite
You can kiss your sorry ass goodbye
Totally fucked
While they mess you up
Well, you know they're going to try

-"Totally Fucked" from "Spring Awakening"***

I just got back from seeing Duncan Sheik at the Palace of Fine Arts. I wasn't so familiar with Duncan although I realized later "Barely Breathing" was one of my favorite songs when it came out in the mid-1990s. In addition, "On a High" and "She Runs Away" were familiar when he sang them.

Duncan and his band at the Palace of Fine Arts

No, I was most familiar with Duncan because of the Broadway show "Spring Awakening." This is my favorite show. There are three shows I've seen in my life that really broke me open both in amazement and overwhelming emotion. The first was "Zorba" after "Zorba the Greek." I got to see Anthony Quinn do the same role in the musical that he did in the film not once but twice. The second show was "Black Rider" written by William S. Burroughs with songs by Tom Waits. It's difficult to explain to someone who isn't familiar with the show how incredible and unusual it was, but I can say that if all the shows weren't sold out I would have definitely seen it more than once.

I saw "Spring Awakening" three (3) times when it was playing here.

The show is groundbreaking with very adult (and quite grim) themes. It centers around a group of teenagers in late 1800s Germany and their various "awakenings." Sex, angst, teen pregnancy, abortion, homosexuality, teen suicide, profanity, rebellion and child abuse all figure prominently. Yes, it's dark and explicit but it's also an amazing, sometimes harrowing show. The music is fantastic and Duncan won two well-deserved Tonys for it. The show as a whole won eight (8) Tonys.

Back to the concert. Lauren Pritchard, who played Ilse in the original Broadway show, was part of Duncan's band so they sang some "Spring Awakening" songs including "Mama Who Bore Me," "Touch Me," The Dark I Know Well," and "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind." What a lovely treat! Duncan played some songs from his new album "Whisper House" which is also going to be a Broadway show. It's a ghost story and judging from the songs it's going to be another dark one.

Duncan did not sing "Barely Breathing" much to the great disappointment of the young man sitting next to me. He kept yelling "Barely Breathing!" at Duncan towards the end of the show and while we were applauding before the encore. Instead, Duncan sang "Fake Plastic Trees" by Radiohead. I felt Duncan and his band deserved a standing ovation just for that song and I was happy to give it to them.

I wasn't expecting to go to this show, but one of my friends called me earlier today to see if I could go. Sometimes life brings you unexpected gifts.

***"Totally Fucked" is a welcome relief in the second act of "Spring Awakening." Several tragedies have occurred and during this song the main character stands his ground and speaks the truth even if the consequences are terrible for him. Towards the end of the song the kids are jumping around the adults on the stage in rebellious exhilaration. The song ends with the kids flipping everybody off in complete defiance. It's one of my favorite moments in the show.

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