Now The Green Blade Riseth

Green Blade

I spent an hour today watching a recording of last night’s Public Theatre play on YouTube:

“What Do We Need To Talk About”

This is the latest chapter of the Apple Family. Previous stories have been performed over the past ten years.

But this is the first one to make its debut live on YouTube.

Broadway is now seen as a place for the out-of-towners to experience an overblown musical that has been running for years. And some of them are good, but most are not that different from the blockbusters shown on the big screen, all effects, a spectacular with little protein.

A play is something different. It’s the ultimate presentation of a story. And if you go to the theatre…

It’s so weird, everybody’s really on stage, it’s alive, and it’s being done just for the few people in the room. This is why Springsteen’s show on the Great White Way was such a hit, and the recorded version for Netflix was not. You see, you had to be there.

But when it’s done for the first time live online, without a net…

“What Do We Need To Talk About” is not a ten. But it captures a lot about life in these United States today. Especially the family Zoom calls. What is covered, people leaving the conversation… If you’re a fan of theatre, you should check this out. If not, know that the Public Theatre is pushing the envelope when music, the most immediate medium, is not. In music, we get live renditions of oldies, in fact, everyone’s holding back new stuff for fear of losing money. Meanwhile, that’s one of the great things about legitimate theatre, you can’t make that much money, so it’s first and foremost about the art.

But then I was just e-mailed this Steve Winwood video.

Winwood tried pushing the limits back in 2003. When most of his contemporaries had given up on releasing new music, Winwood released the LP “About Time” that was not only new, it was different from what came before, it was jazzy. But it started out on an independent label and it’s hard to get traction on radio if you’re old and it didn’t quite fit the rock format and…

Winwood toured the LP for years, it was astounding if you went to the shows.

And then he signed with Epic and made an album like he used to. The envelope was no longer being pushed.

This happens all the time. You see artists live in the eye of the hurricane. They get feedback from sycophantic friends and business associates, and they read the reviews, but they’ve got no idea how the public really feels, so they change directions when they should stay the course, they don’t know people are behind them and the only change necessary is the amplification of the story.

Now Winwood does oldies shows. But the strange thing is he hasn’t lost a step. He’s usually better than everybody he plays with. He blew Eric Clapton off the stage on their joint tour. You see Winwood still has the pipes, and he’s a vastly underrated player.

So yesterday, Winwood put out a new live video. You probably don’t know, even if you’re a Winwood fan, because it’s nearly impossible to get the message out, but a reader e-mailed me and…

I was enthralled.

Winwood is so good, you’ll think this is prerecorded, but it’s not. I went through that with Steve when he posted a version of “Can’t Find My Way Home” recorded in front of his crackling fire.

Now through the magic of the internet, you’re transported to a field in the U.K., your mind is immediately set free.

And then Steve starts to pick.

This is not fake, this is not treated, this is just acoustic music, no different from how it’s been for eons.

And then Steve starts to sing, and so does your heart. It reminds me of seeing him perform “John Barleycorn” at the Fillmore East, back in 1970.

It’s an old hymn, and being Jewish, I don’t know it. And I’m waiting for the chorus, for Steve to bust out with that vibrant emotion he’s famous for.

But that’s not the song.

But in this world of duplicity, humanity can still reign, even if it’s conveyed by digits.

You’ll feel like you’re sitting in that field alone, right in front of Steve, taking it all in. You’ll be transported in a way only music can do.

Plays can show you life.

When done right, music is life itself.

“Green Blade” will touch your soul, and isn’t that what you’re looking for?

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