Philip Glass at the Dakota, 4/6/11

Photography was not allowed so I snapped this outside the lobby
Photography was not allowed so I snapped this outside the lobby

Philip Glass
April 6, 2011
The Dakota, Minneapolis

I found it interesting that the concert comprised of classic works by Philip Glass. In the realm of classical music, a composer usually makes a public performance to premier a new work. I suppose in the modern world of high tech gadgetry and low attention spans, even musicians like Glass have to play the hits.

I chuckled to myself as I imagined a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart world tour. Some slick PR guy constantly hounding him between drags of his cigar. "Look kid ya gotta play the old stuff. That's why they paid to see ya!" He takes the stage in Cleveland in front of a rowdy crowd barking requests, and just as the whimsical genius sits behind the piano some dude with a beer attempts to yell "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" with a drunken tongue.

Luckily for Glass, the absurd nerd-world in my head doesn't exist, because other than the thunderous applause he received taking the stage the crowd remained silent for the entire night. The minimalist pioneer plowed through six of his piano etudes, and moved elegantly through "Mad Rush," a personal favorite of mine.

When he began performing movements from his famed Metamorphosis, the program had informed me that he would be playing Numbers 2, 3, and 4 in that order. He went 4, 3, and 2. I realize that doesn't sound the least bit shocking, but for classical music it's pretty punk rock.

The night concluded with a piece entitled Wichita Vortex Sutra, a work written in collaboration with Alan Ginsberg. I found that match fitting. Previous eras of classical music used grand sweeping melodies in order to paint a picture. Beethoven was like a novelist using gorgeously verbose sentences to convey his message. A minimalist such as Glass is more economical not unlike a poet. Glass accompanied an audio recording of Ginsberg made for this very purpose. The digital ghost of Ginsberg oozed out of the speakers as Glass pounded away. I couldn't help but get the chills.

How can I even critique this performance? It's already well known that Glass has been accused of being a one-trick pony and a clumsy piano player, but does any of that need to be stated at this point. He has already carved a place in history with his beloved harmonies and stubborn ostinatos. His wondrously ominous five-note melodies are unmistakable and immortal, and no one has been able to say so much with so little the way Philip Glass continues to do.

Are you even reading this to hear a laundry list of technical specs needing improvement, or do you want to know about the butterflies I got sitting a mere 10 feet away from a living legend tackling some of the most monumental music made in the past century, or how electric a sold out room felt as the crowd hung on every note in quiet awe? Pedestrians outside halted and peered through the window. Even they knew something truly special was occurring inside. Simply put, it was breathtaking.

He was so human. He didn't want to appear flawless. He closed his eyes and let muscle memory take over while whatever emotion felt in the moment dictated the tempo and dynamics. Every note he pawed dripped with feeling. He loves this music. He got swept away in it, and I enjoyed myself most when I shut my eyes and did the same.

Personal Bias: I'm such an überdork that I returned home, immediately sat at the piano, and played "Metamorphosis 2" and "Truman Sleeps" until I realized I actually had to write this review and not telepathically post it onto the Gimme Noise blog.

The Crowd: Die hard Glass fanatics like myself with a few affluent art elitists who paid for the tickets just to say they were there.

Overheard in the crowd: In the lobby before the show someone busted out their best Homer Simpson impression, "An evening with Philip Glass... just an evening!?" I cracked up. I had this sound byte stuck in my head that entire day. If you didn't pick up on the reference, see episode #159 of the Simpsons "A Milhouse Divided."

Random notebook dump: For as classy a place the Dakota is my table was wobbly as all get out.

Setlist: I feel a bit odd calling it that but:

Piano Etudes 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, and 10
Mad Rush
Metamorphoses Nos. 4, 3, and 2 (despite what the program said)
Dreaming Awake
Wichita Vortex Sutra


Night on the Balcony

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