streaming Corn, a new posthumous album of unreleased recordings from the early ’80s. Meanwhile at BAM on Friday, Sam Amidon, Cults, Rubblebucket and many others paid tribute to the influential East Village singer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist.It was a good weekend to be a fan of Arthur Russell: for one thing, NPR Music started
A tweet from Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire best summed up the world premiere of Red Hot + Arthur Russell, put on by the Red Hot Organization and Red Bull Music Academy: “So many magical people all in one magical room all magically channelling Arthur Russell’s magical spirit.”
Among those magical performers were Parry himself on guitar, vocals, and upright bass.
Another eclectic East Village composer, Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange), laid down the funky guitar riffs of “Is It All Over My Face?”, just as he did for the tribute compilation that Yep Roc released last October, featuring Hot Chip, Sufjan Stevens, Phosphorescent, and others.
Then there was Thao Nguyen, the San Francisco-based folk-rocker who’s due to release a new album next year.
Clouds of smoke wafted through the Howard Gilman Opera House as the brass section established a reflective mood (heightened by AIDS-related displays by Gran Fury and The Silence=Death Collective) that enticed audience members to sway or even shed a tear.
Projections of New York City imagery nodded to the ’70s and ’80s, when Russell was a staple of the underground dance and disco scene and a collaborator with luminaries like Philip Glass, David Byrne and Allen Ginsberg.
The night’s seeming godfather, Jake Shears, got everyone dancing and singing along to “That’s Us/Wild Combination,” the song that Russell reworked throughout his life until it was cut short by AIDS in 1992, and that is the namesake of a documentary about him. Shears’s rendition, true to the version he released with his band Scissor Sisters, was so powerful it felt like a reiki session from above.
After a standing ovation, Lonnie Holley answered cries for an encore with “In The Light Of The Miracle,” the 13-minute song that Pitchfork once said represented “the apex of all Russell’s powers and all his worlds,” as it merged minimalism, shimmering cello, Indian percussion, sustained brass, and a “choir of vaporous voices” to create “the sound of Paradise Garage and Nirvana itself.”
As that flowed perfectly into “Go Bang!”, the proto-disco track that Russell wrote for Dinosaur L’s 1982 record 24-24 Music, the crowd rushed the stage in a celebration of funk, peace and harmony.
Here’s the setlist.