A few thoughts on the performance by Jeff Bridges and the Abiders at the sold-out Pantages Theatre Sunday:
- Bridges is a better singer -- stronger, more forceful and more musical -- than his albums and Oscar-winning “Crazy Heart” movie would lead you to believe. It helped that he had a stellar band of his buddies, the Abiders, to support him, especially musical director/guitarist Chris Pelonis.
- “This is a special night for me,” Bridges explained at the outset. Because he had a lot of family in the house and because “this is the home of Prince. Robert Pirsig of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (which didn’t get much of a reaction) and [in an exaggerated voice of eerie doom) home of the Coen brothers.” He was talkative and likable – and the crowd was respectful, with only a handful of fans shouting out lines from “The Big Lebowski.”
- Bridges dedicated the show to Robin Williams, with whom he costarred in “The Fisher King.”
- Many of Bridges tunes were written by his pal John Goodwin – not to be confused with actor John Goodman, the singer explained – whom he met in 4th grade and took tap-dancing lessons with and went to cotillion together (mom forced them). The best Goodwin number was probably “Van Gogh in Hollywood,” with its creepy verses and scorching blues-rock choruses. It was from the movie “Tideland” about which Bridges said, “For half the movie, I play a carcass.” He also pointed out that the film was directed by Minneapolis-born Terry Gilliam.
- In his 95-minute set, Bridges mixed in a few covers – Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lookin Out My Back Door,” Townes Van Zandt’s “To Live Is To Fly” (which showed off the power of Bridges' upper register), Tom Waits’ “Never Let Go” (a moving Irish-flavored ballad done on piano) and encores of – what he called a Dinkytown song --Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me” and the Byrds’ “So You Want To Be a Rock n Roll Star.” The diversity of those selections suggests the kind of musical influences Bridges has. But most of his own material was in the roots and Americana vein.
- Bridges’ 8-year-old grand nephew was dancing up a storm in the front row, much to the delight of Uncle Jeff. There were lots of Bridges relatives at the show, including his sister who lives in the area and a niece who goes to the University of Minnesota. Even Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon – a friend of the family from Eau Claire -- stopped by to chat up the Dude after the show.