Concert Performances: Night Stage, Cambridge, Massachusetts|
(March 13, 1987) -- Set #1
LEO:This always takes me a lot longer than it should. I'll get started in a minute here. [Leo begins to play "Taxco Steps" then stops and adjusts sound] Now we won't drown in there.
[Leo plays "Taxco Steps" with a completely different break than studio version]
[Leo plays "Airproofing II"]
[Applause]LEO:Thanks. Thank you.
I pulled up in a cab tonight and I saw...was that you? Standing outside in the cold? I would have thought they'd let you in. Sell some alcohol and... I shouldn't be surprised though because things aren't usually done the way I would do them.
This is a song that I wrote in the middle of a sentence one week. Excuse me. It's an affliction, not a habit. I was on vacation in Jamaica. This was under duress. That usually involves, a vacation -- for most of us I think, except for those of us who don't do this -- going to a far-away place and staying in a hotel. Which I do and try to get paid for. So I was more or less willing to sulk on my vacation but not so much because of that or just being a general all- around curmudgeon -- which is something that people who know me have gotten used to over the years. I don't like being in the sun. I think that...I've learned not to say that I don't like the sun because that's asking for trouble. So I don't. But I do point out that I'd rather be in the dark. And this sitting in the sun is painful to me. I can feel those little photons or whatever they are penetrating my pale flesh. And I am very very pale.
So I have good cause not only for pain but concern when I'm in the sun and I do stay in the dark. I prefer it. If I'm in the dark, I like to be not just in the dark, I like to be indoors in the dark. Outdoors in the dark is another story altogether. And if I'm indoors, I like to be in the basement with my cheek on the cement. There's heaven on this earth and it's just below the ground.
[While playing:] So I was out walking on the beach which... this was in the dark of course. I'd spent the day in my room and although... it was fairly dark in there even for me. After a while I had to change scenery to something else that I couldn't quite see and set out and walked along the beach. If you're like me, you expect that everything that you step on will be like the last thing you stepped on. And just perpetually so. One grain almost identical to the next. And what I discovered in the dark, although my wife argues about this, was a rock about this big and I discovered it with my longest toe, which is not my big toe by the way. I'm an unusual sort of guy. My wife claims it was her toe that hit the rock but I don't remember it that way. So I went back to my room and burst into song.
[Leo plays "First to Go"]
[Applause][Leo begins to play "Last Steam Engine Train/Stealing" medley then stops]
LEO:Nahhh. My tempo is wanting to creep up on me. I gotta subdue that. [Leo begins to play it again, then starts tapping his foot]. Almost....
[Leo plays "Last Steam Engine Train/Stealing" medley]
Thanks. That piece is made up of fragments of other people's tunes. People that I've listened to over the years including "Doc's Guitar." I got to play this, or part of it, with Doc [Watson] a couple of weeks ago. There's also a piece in here, a tune written by Mitch Greenhill, who is now Doc's manager, which figures because Mitch was the first guitar player I saw driving a Buick. Knocked me out, I couldn't believe that.
This was written about 20 years ago. It's taken me 15 to admit that I like the tune. What I usually do with these is turn them into instrumentals and ignore the lyric altogether. 'Cause it is the lyric that makes my skin crawl and the melody that attracts me to the thing. But in this case there's not enough melody to justify making an instrumental out of it and I have to do this. But I find it admirable that I can be so honest with myself and my audience even at the expense of my career. And would like to do it.
I like to point out as I have many times that this was written by a guy who had gotten a divorce, maybe six months previous to the issue of this piece, and was ready to cut his throat as a result. He was overwhelmed with regrets and remorse that he didn't expect and it wasn't at all what he'd hoped for. He spent his time at a restaurant in Los Angeles called Tony and Mario's, where the business slowly declined because of this horrible-looking man in the front window fiddling with the serrated edges of the knives, sort of stirring the pasta. Anyhow, I know for a fact that she called him up at some point in all this despair and told him that she wanted to come back and try this again and admitted this to him. And you can see from the lyric why she may have left him in the first place. And get a good good idea of how this second try must have worked out. I don't know how you could live with a guy like this. It'd just be like living with Peewee Herman.
[Leo plays "Rings"]
[Applause]LEO:Thanks. [Leo begins to play "Part Two"] Naahh...wait a minute. That's exactly what I want to do but I gotta settle down just for a second. [after finding untuned string:] Aha, no wonder.
[Leo plays "Part Two"]
LEO:[Leo begins to play "June Bug." To sound engineer:] I think we're cleaning up the guitars just a little too much. We doing anything to 'em? Nothing? Oh, okay.
[While playing intro to "June Bug":] This is one of my favourite parts here, so I...you can get a lot of things done during this you know.
[Leo plays "June Bug"]
[Applause]LEO:My nose itches tonight and I'm trying not to grab it but I sometimes can't resist. I discovered a few years ago when I had been doing this -- well, for a long time by then -- and I was trying to figure out how to get more out of it. I mean I love playing and that always works, but the rest of the day is really kind of odd at times. Actually, it's not odd, it's so thoroughly predictable that you become slowly sort of numb and turn to insanity as a kind of defence, or confusion as a form of sort of color or entertainment and that doesn't pay off.
So somebody told me that if I narrowed my perspective... they pointed out by the way, when I was talking about this stuff, they pointed out that I got so sort of Montgomery-Ward philosophical about it that I was obviously killing myself by trying to come to some big answer to all of this motel life. I was making a mountain out of a molehill is what I was doing and I was being very broad about it, and they suggested that I narrow my perspective in order to expand my consciousness rather than expand my perspective. Because when I expanded my perspective I was exceeding my reach and I was narrowing my consciousness. In other words, I was pushing too hard and I was ruining myself -- to put it more kindly which is the way I'd like to put it.
So I determined that they were probably right and that I would have to figure out ways to do that within the kind of day that I have, which means getting off on doorknobs and cottage cheese and ticket stubs and things. I didn't see how that could work. It doesn't really, it doesn't work that well. But there are some little rewards in it and the first one that I got was in a restaurant in North Carolina and I was staring at a little bowl of cottage cheese that I had while thinking about all of this and while I looked at it, the cheese collapsed in the bowl. Just for me. I was thrilled. And I thought maybe there's something to this after all. And I've continued ever since then to try and develop this attitude which has its own drawbacks of course. You tend to stare at the ground or the floor instead of ahead of you.
But I hit what had to be the peak of narrowed perspective about -- I don't know when it was -- it was a little while ago when I discovered something I didn't even know that I needed. Well, then again, I sort of knew that I needed it but it wasn't the kind of think I wanted to admit to needing. I found -- in a drugstore -- a rotary nasal hair clipper. I'm growing up now and I'm getting hairy. Not the least of that is happening within my nose.
So I found this thing and I don't know about you but I'd only read about these in comic books. I had no idea that they actually existed and I'm one of those people...when I'm 65, I 'm gonna have a cornfield sticking out of my ears. I know I will. So I got this thing -- I'm telling you more about myself than I intended to. The point is my nose itches because when you trim this sort of luxurious pompadour that you have in your schnozz, you wind up with a kind of a flattop, which is you know, pointy. It feels odd, so you kind of grab you nose to check that out and stab yourself on either side of your septum and then you itch. And because you itch, you grab it again and it never ends.
This is a tough job, there's nothing easy about it. I'm just waiting to see what happens next. A guy that I've always admired for his courage who's now singing in the Met actually asked a barber to trim the hair in his nose. I think that's courageous.
[Leo plays "The Train and the Gate/Machine" medley]
[Applause]LEO:Thanks. [To sound engineer:] Just for a second, can you punch the graphics out? Is that puncheable outable? [Leo plays some riffs and the guitar has a fuller sound] I think I like that better. Maybe a little 60 hertz added to that. Whoa. Thank you. Fine.
[To audience while tuning:] This is a song that was written by a guy who used to send me parts of his fingernails in the mail. This was so I could repair mine when they broke, but it was too intimate for me. I didn't make use of that. His name's Richard Gilewitz and he's got his own record out now. [Leo begins to play the opening riff to "Echoing Gilewitz"] There are three gaping holes in this and they're supposed to be here.
[Leo plays "Echoing Gilewitz"]
[Leo plays "Little Martha"]
[Applause]LEO:Thank you very much.[Leo plays "Cripple Creek"?]
[Applause]LEO:Thank you. I'd like to establish eye contact with you behind the piano. [Leo hums to check tuning] I'd like to encourage you to come and see Leon [Redbone?] when he's here. We played a lot together but one of the most memorable nights of my life was when Leon found -- it was somewhere out East here, up ...maybe in...well, I don't know what state it was in, it was out here somewhere, in the sixth oldest theatre in the United States -- Leon found an avid, avid fan in the audience and it was a bat. It just appeared from somewhere and just hovered around Leon all throughout his set. Leo's also a great snooker player, which does him no good on stage.
[Leo begins to play "Ice Field"] This is a sombre tune -- before I get to the end of the set here -- about a...well, none of these tunes are about anything, they're just tunes. But I found they connect with things in, usually in the windmill of my own mind. And in this case it's the ice fields, which is a phenomenon that happens where I live when the lakes freeze -- the Great Lakes -- and usually there are several ore boats of wheat boats or acorn boats or whatever they're carrying that get stuck out there. And after three months in a boat full of hazelnuts and 10 other people, they begin I am sure to stare at each other's throats. And it appeals to my sense of romance. So I wrote a song.
[Leo plays "Ice Field". In the middle of the tune, Leo whispers "Kill!" to the audience]
LEO:[While playing "Morning is the Long Way Home":] It's been a pleasure coming back here to the Night Stage. I hope to see you next year. Thanks for coming and waiting in the cold. See you.[Leo plays "Morning is the Long Way Home"]
[Applause]LEO:Thank you. Thank you.[Audience demands encore]
[Leo plays "Louise"]
[Applause]LEO:[In response to audience question:] My trombone is...I still have my trombone, that's all. I haven't played it in about 20 years. What am I gonna do? [Leo tunes and audience member suggests something to play] I'd do that but I've done it so much that I haven't done it for a while. I've done this a lot too but I can't quit.[Leo plays "Jack Fig"]
Thanks a lot. We'll let the other people in, I've played a little too long here. Thanks for coming, see you next year. Thanks a lot.[The End]
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