Review: Randy Newman show at Belly Up Aspen spans 49-year career for small crowd
On Sunday at Belly Up Aspen, Randy Newman gave his first concert since the Aug. 4 release of his latest album, “Dark Matter.” But an under-appreciative crowd slowly filed out as Newman rolled through a set that didn’t last 90 minutes.
In that span, the 73-year-old mixed songs from a career that started 49 years ago. Sadly, there barely were 49 people left at Belly Up when he finished his 29th and final song at 10:04 p.m. With a bit of banter between a few songs, Newman finished this benefit concert for National Jewish Health with plenty of time to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
But those who stayed to the end were an enthusiastic bunch as Newman mixed classics with new work off “Dark Matter.”
He opened the show with the new “It’s a Jungle Out There” and quickly turned to a classic with the 1970s anthem “Mama Told Me Not to Come.” As with most of his songs, the fast tempo made quick work of the piece.
His set included many songs that express his love for his family, both close and extended, and dealing with loss.
His new song “She Chose Me,” he said, was an ode to his wife, Gretchen Preece, whom he married in 1990. It’s a sweet and humble song you could be hearing a lot at weddings in the next few months.
“It’s about us guys who married out of our league,” he said.
It went along well with “Marie,” from his fifth album, and “Good Old Boys,” which came out in 1974. His self-titled debut came out in 1968 and he tapped it Sunday with a moving rendition of “Living Without You.”
He tried out “Lost Without You,” which is off the new release, and said it is about the difficulties and uncomfortable moments within families after the death of a loved one.
On the political side, Newman’s “Putin” about the Russian leader was the most well-received of the new works. He released the song last fall during the election season and has been playing it on the TV talk-show circuit of late. He then went straight into his 1999 song “The World Isn’t Fair” about Karl Marx and the failure of Marxism.
He pulled from the shelf “Dayton, Ohio – 1903” off the 1972 album “Sail Away.” And during the show Newman threw out other classics and crowd favorites such as “Short People,” You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” and “Love to See You Smile.” (At one point, he had to remind an audience member requesting “Short People” that he had played it about 10 songs earlier.)
“In Germany Before the War” off his 1977 album “Little Criminals” was part of a somber transition before jumping into “Baltimore” from the same release.
Then he got the thinned-out crowd bouncing a bit with “I Love L.A.,” enticing the few remaining Californians in the crowd to sing along.
Newman ended the show, 49 years after his first album, with “I Think It’s Going …” off that debut record. And with that, the few left at the Belly Up went out into a cool and peaceful night with a catalog of Newman songs to think about.
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