Randy Newman in Milan

Monday night we went to hear Randy Newman in Milan, on the last date of his European tour. I didn’t realize it was the last til I looked at his site just now – he certainly didn’t look any worse for the wear of 22 shows in 30 days. This was the Songbook tour, just Randy and his piano; I’d heard about the tour (and bought the CD) thanks to a review in the NYT or somewhere. It was sheer dumb luck that I stepped out of a hotel in Milan a few weeks ago and found myself face to face with Randy Newman on a poster, glued to a fence around the Pirelli tower (re)construction site (this is how I usually learn about concerts I want to go to, usually too late).

The promoters missed a marketing opportunity – I think Rossella and I were the only Americans in the theater. Ross was also very much the youngest person there, but that’s less surprising. I watched as the crowd entered, and amused myself speculating on who these people were. My guess is that this concert brought out every old-school lefty to be found in the Milan area: I have not seen so many beards in one room since about 1975. There was even one guy with long sideburns and a gold corduroy jacket – thirty years of fashion had passed him right by, even in Milan! Or maybe that stuff’s back in now, and I, as usual, am the laggard follower of fashion.

We hoped not to be subjected to a constant audience singalong such as we had suffered through at the Alex Britti concert. This was a very different audience, but Ross was plagued by the two guys behind her singing along through most of the show, albeit so quietly that Enrico and I didn’t hear them. Unfortunately, she didn’t mention this til afterwards; she hadn’t wanted to disturb anyone else by shushing them, though she might have said something during intermission.

There was one song that Randy asked us to sing along on: “I’m Dead and I Don’t Know It,” about all the geriatric rockers still on tour (referring to himself as well). I had recently been thinking about this phenomenon: my daughter is the third-generation Who fan in our family. That’s a bit scary, but at least it’s something we can share, though my tolerance for her generation’s music is limited.To sum up, the concert was wonderful. If you don’t know Randy Newman, or only know him via such pop hits as “Short People” or “I Love LA,” or his movie scores, I recommend a closer aquaintance. He writes songs unlike anyone else’s: three-minute stories narrated by characters very distant from himself, sad, funny, touching, and often with an ironic punch that gets you thinking.

Songbook Vol. 1 Amazon UK

About Randy Newman

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