The Weekender: Visionary singers, stirring stories, and RuPaul’s ‘Holi-slay Spectacular’
Well hello, Weekenders! You did it again. Managed to make it all the way to the end of another week, and you didn’t even require a motorcade to get there. (Prouda you.)
But while everyone else is busy looking back on the year and compiling big lists of everything that happened, this newsletter remains resolutely focused on the (very near) future. After all, 2018 may be looking ready to collapse before the finish line, but this weekend is just getting started. So let’s get started!
UPON A STAR: My wish for 2019 is that everyone gets a little more Esperanza Spalding in their lives and earbuds. I’m not sure that it’s entirely clear to all of you what an Actual Factual Serious Genius she is. Spalding is a visionary composer, a sui generis singer, a virtuosic bassist, a born performer, and a genuine-article artist. (She was also named a Harvard professor last year, to teach “songwriting, arranging, improvisation, and performance, while also bringing her commitment to music as a voice for social justice.” ) And she’s at the top of her game — to the point where she risks going right over everyone’s head. Don’t let that happen. Catch yourself up on her recently released album , “ 12 Little Spells,” and catch her at Berklee Performance Center on Saturday night. Tickets here.
PUFF DADDY: Globe correspondent Lauren Daley had a delightful little chat with two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee David Crosby ahead of his Friday night gig at New Bedford’s Zeiterion Theatre, in which she covers his fondness for Snarky Puppy (that’s a band), his itchy trigger finger on Twitter (“I delete four or five people a day”), his perfectly reasonable belief that women should probably just take over for the foreseeable future, his forthcoming brand of weed, and (possibly directly related) his “tittering, almost cartoonish giggle.” (I looked for footage of him laughing but all I could find was “Laughing,” which was still nice to listen to.) Grab tickets here.
JAMS & GEMS: Elsewhere in Davids is Dave, who is in town this Friday to play TD Garden. You look confused. Oh! I’m sorry, my bad, technically it’s the Dave Matthews Band who is playing, but yeah, I mean, we just call him Dave. (Since we go back so far, you see.) But even if you’re not close personal friends with Dave like the rest of us are, you’ll still appreciate his revival of dorm-room heaters like “Everyday,” “Crash Into Me,” and “What Would You Say,” along with some curveball covers like “Sledgehammer” and “Burning Down the House” (by a completely different David). You can grab tickets here.
BAND OF BROS: Who knows what Mumford and Sons will do with their musical guest slot on this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” (with Matt Damon)? Will the godfathers of “whoa-ohhhh-oh”-core dip into their deep reservoir of market-tested banjo-bangers? Or will they veer into the “Sun Ra-style free-jazz explorations” producer Paul Epworth claims went into their new album “Delta”? Or will they bring their homey Jordan Peterson out onstage for a spirited discussion of beards, vests, and enforced monogamy? You just never know with these guys, which is what makes them so exciting. (I’m guessing.) They’re at TD Garden on Sunday. Tickets here.
CARE TAKEN: Globe film critic Ty Burr gives four stars to “Roma,” the latest film by Alfonso Cuarón ( “Gravity,” “Children of Men,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien”), calling it a “gentle, wide, wise, and true” film that finds Cuarón using “his prodigious moviemaking skills to immerse us in a world of rough wonder.” A memoir of sorts, and sumptuously shot in black and white, it follows Cleo, a young housekeeper in 1970s Mexico City modeled after Cuarón’s own childhood nanny. “How generous is its gaze, enfolding cruelty and kindness in its embrace, seeing the rich, busy daily life that overflows the foreground and the political realities that hang behind the scenes like a background hum,” writes Burr. “Like all the best films, “Roma” is achingly specific while constantly opening up to the universal.” (Catch it on a big screen this weekend before it shrinks down for Netflix.) Now screening.
SCREEN TEST: For the stirring seven-channel video work “Love Story,” on view now at the Museum of Fine Arts, South African artist Candice Breitz “interviewed six refugees (three men, three women) who had fled intolerable circumstances of all kinds” but channels those interviews through “celebrity surrogates,” actors Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore. “Love Story” is at once a firm shake to wake viewers up to the reality of the global refugee crisis and a revelatory test of how we sort the stories we encounter — and the consequences that come from our selective attention. Writes Globe art critic Murray Whyte (welcome aboard Murray!), “The actors’ familiarity is a comforting buffer that both leavens the terror and gives us permission. Their job is to be watched, and so we do.” It’s on view through Jan. 22. More information here.
SPIRITUAL LEADER: Globe theater critic Don Aucoin offers a rave review for the Front Porch Arts Collective and Lyric Stage production of Daniel Beaty’s “Breath & Imagination,” which finds actor Maurice Emmanuel Parent making his directorial debut, and virtuosic local dynamo Davron S. Monroe soaring in the role of Boston tenor Roland Hayes, “a son of former slaves who used his glorious voice to topple color barriers on concert stages in the early 20th century.” “Monroe,” writes Aucoin, “brings a combination of elegantly expressive artistry and emotional clarity to his performance of traditional spirituals like ‘Were You There,’ ‘Plenty Good Room,’ and ‘My God Is So High.’ ” “Breath & Imagination” runs at Lyric Stage through Dec. 23. Find tickets here.
BRANCHING OUT: And back onstage in Boston (after a brief run in 2016) is the “weirdly entrancing” and aggressively festive “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.” One part circus extravaganza and two parts eggnog fever dream, it imagines a world in which Christmas ornaments spring acrobatically to life. The first time it came to the Shubert, Aucoin described it as “a full-on sensory immersion in which Las Vegas meets family entertainment meets musical theater meets acid trip, with elements of Santa’s Workshop and an old-time TV variety show thrown into the mix.” Expect all manner of flipping trimmings, including penguins, gingerbread men, snowmen, elves, ragdolls and reindeer. (And maybe try to get your hands on some of that Crosby stuff first.) It’s up at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre through Sunday. Find tickets here.
MERRY MAKER: And since we’re on a festive note: Rejoice! The wait is over, the cocoa is ready, the stockings are hung, the sugar plums are dancing — what I’m getting at is that it’s Holiday Pops time! “This year’s Holiday Pops season will offer fans a series of warmly familiar festivities,” writes Isaac Feldberg, “from Symphony Hall sing-alongs to performances of a John Williams score alongside a screening of one of his most beloved films.” (That would be “Home Alone,” on Dec. 29 and 30) There’ll be something borderline holly-jolly for everyone from tiny tot first-timers to seasonally weathered vets of the program. “I have people come up and tell me they came as kids in my first years in town and are now bringing their kids back,” conductor Keith Lockhart told the Globe. “That always makes me feel both honored and old.” You can catch the first flurry of performances on Friday and Sunday. Showtimes and tickets here.
OR STAY IN! It wouldn’t be the holidays without a snowcapped mountain of box sets and reissues to hunker down with between headphones, and Stuart Munro has a six-pack survey of this season’s impressive haul from artists including Bobbie Gentry, the Band, Joe Strummer (a two-disc set of his work outside of the Clash), the Louvin Brothers, Glen Campbell, and Kirsty MacColl.
Elsewhere in musical deep dives, Peter Keough suggests a trio of music documentaries “that focus on musicians who have confronted mortality late in their careers and have been rewarded with renewed vigor,” and that are also now streaming, including “Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda,” “Quincy,” and “David Bowie: The Last Five Years.”
And it’s a pretty lit weekend on the tube, while we’re at it. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” returns to Amazon for its second season, dragging its big bag of Emmys behind it. And “Dumplin’,” the new Netflix coming-of-age movie (available Friday) starring Danielle Macdonald (from “Patti Cake$”) about a Texas teen entering a beauty pageant, features music from the equally marvelous Dolly Parton.
But I’ll be watching and rewatching “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Holi-slay Spectacular.” Airing Friday at 8 p.m. on VH-1, it’s a one-off holiday showdown, pitting eight queens from past seasons against each other in holiday themed challenges. (If Shangela jumps out of a gift box, I’m shutting it off.) Ho, ho, ho, indeed!
All righty, folks. That’s all I’ve got in the shopping bag this week.
Oh! But speaking of shopping, if you still have some to take care of, you might try the ICA’s Harbor Market, “the museum’s quarterly artisan takeover,” which “features an array of innovative local art, craft, food, drink, and game vendors.” It’s free and open to the public, you can check out that crazy William Forsythe show while you’re there, and most importantly, you can take care of every eccentric aunt on your list. It runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the ICA. Info here.
And that’ll do it. However you decide to spend your weekend, make it one you’ll miss come Monday. See you next week!