Another side of Jeff Bridges: The Dude abides in song, too

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 22, 2014 - 1:54 PM

Jeff Bridges will be himself in concert at the Pantages, but he says he doesn’t mind if fans come to see The Dude or the country singer from “Crazy Heart.”

Hey, dude. You in the second row. With the bowling shirt, chewing on the ice in your White Russian. Got news for you. Jeff Bridges doesn’t mind that you showed up at his concert because you worship him in the “The Big Lebowski.”

Honest, he doesn’t mind. He called to tell me that.

“If people shout ‘The Dude,’ I kind of like that,” said Bridges. “It’s one of my favorite movies.”

Or if you show up Sunday at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis with, say, a bowling pin, The Dude might autograph it. And he won’t even complain that you didn’t buy one of his CDs.

He knows people are coming because of  “The Big Lebowski” and maybe out of “curiosity” about his singing, he said.

The Dude abides, and so does Bridges. He does his acting thing, he does his singing thing.

He’s released two albums under his own name, one in 2000 (“Be Here Soon”) and another in 2011 (“Jeff Bridges”). Maybe you remember his piano playing in “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” (Me, I can’t forget Michelle Pfeiffer rolling around atop the piano, but maybe that’s just me.) Certainly you remember his weathered-but-warm singing in “Crazy Heart.” Didn’t see it? Not many people did except the Academy Awards voters. They gave him the Oscar for best actor for his stunningly credible performance as a once-famous country singer struggling with the bottle.

Not only did the 2009 film get him glory, but it “lit a fire musically,” Bridges acknowledged.

In concert Sunday with his band — the Abiders, naturally — the guitarist promises to sing a few things from the T Bone Burnett-produced “Crazy Heart” soundtrack, some tunes from his albums and a couple of covers.

“There’ll be some new songs, too, that I’ve written and John Goodwin has written,” the 64-year-old Californian said, referring to the Nashville singer-songwriter who’s a childhood friend, not to be confused with “Lebowski” co-star John Goodman.

In concert, what is Bridges like? What percentage of him is The Dude? What percentage is his “Crazy Heart” character Bad Blake? How about Merle Haggard, or Kris Kristofferson, or “Crazy Heart” consultant Stephen Bruton? Or the real Jeff Bridges?

He laughed at the long-winded question. His response could have come straight from The Dude’s mouth.

“I don’t know. I don’t think in those terms, man. I’m just doing my best. When I’m in an acting role, I do a similar thing. You have to be open to the Muse of the character that inhabits you. When I come onstage, I’m just me. I’m not any kind of character or anything. Different songs will encourage different aspects of myself. Sometimes it’s a surprise to me. I hope it’s a pleasant surprise to [the audience] as well.”

Fargo connection

To garble one of his priceless quotes from “The Big Lebowski”: “This is music, not bowling. There are no rules.”

“Jeff Bridges,” his 2011 disc, sounds like the kind of rootsy album Bad Blake might have made if he’d had his act together. Actually, a few of the songs were considered for “Crazy Heart.” Bridges describes it as “kind of a mix of stuff: pop, rock, blues, country.”

He and the Abiders have played West Coast gigs, including the huge Stagecoach festival in Indio, Calif., and at Sturgis, S.D., for the motorcycle rally. But never in Minneapolis.

He’s been here, though. No, not to pay homage at the Coen brothers’ childhood home in St. Louis Park (“I should do that”) or to look up their old neighbor Jeff Lebowski. Minneapolis has been a stopover spot for Bridges and his wife of 37 years, Susan Geston, when they visit her family home in — are you ready for this? — Fargo.

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