Elaine and I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Van Dyke Parks in Chicago this weekend. The setting was Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements, a three-day arts event at the Riverfront Theater, a modified circus tent. Parks was opening for Conor Oberst. Yes, the audience was young. Elaine and I seemed to be the oldest members, doing our bit to make the occasion a genuine all-ages show. I’m not sure that many of the attendees were familiar with Van Dyke’s music. And I doubt that more than a handful might have known that “Brilliant Corners” is the title of a Thelonious Monk tune. But the audience was respectful and often enthusiastic.“I don’t need Clint Eastwood sitting here for what I’ve got to say tonight!”
Van Dyke Parks, from the stage
And with good reason. Van Dyke and company were inspired. They tore the roof off the sucker, with grace and precision and heart. The set (all Parks compositions except as noted):
Jump! : Opportunity for Two : Come Along : Orange Crate Art : Wings of a Dove : Delta Queen Waltz (John Hartford) : FDR in Trinidad (Fitz MacLean) : Danza (Louis Moreau Gottschalk) : Cowboy : The All Golden : Sail Away
Van Dyke’s between-song commentary touched on everything from Lawrence Welk to Pussy Riot to rivers (the Chicago, the Cumberland, the Mississippi) to the five-day work week. My favorite line: “As Lawrence Welk once said, ‘I want a close-up of the whole band.’”
Even when Van Dyke is on our turf, it seems that Elaine and I end up being the recipients of his hospitality. Thank you, Van Dyke. Someday we will make it go, like the Chicago River, the other way around.
All Van Dyke Parks posts (Pinboard)