Scott and I saw Justin Vivian Bond in concert at Joe's Pub on June 23, 2022.
We're both big fans of theirs, have seen them numerous times, but this was our first time seeing them together. This was a special show for Pride Week, called *Oh Mary, It's Pride!*
JVB was performing with a small ensemble of longtime collaborators: pianist and music director David Sytkowski, guitarist Nathanne (I'm not sure I have the spelling right and don't know the last name) and drummer Boom Boom (again, don't know the last name). They opened with "The Woman in the Moon," a song I didn't know. I Googled it and dear Lord, it's one of Barbra's songs from *A Star is Born.* Heaven help us all.
JVB said that they thought this being Pride Week, they would choose songs that were "kinda Pride-y." The next song was my favorite of the show, "Along Comes Mary" by The Association. I adore this song and never thought of it as a Pride-y song, but in this context, and especially sung by the Divine Mx. Bond, it takes on a different character. For those of you who aren't hip to the lingo, gay men, especially gay men of a certain vintage, sometimes refer to each other as Mary. As in, "What the hell do you have on, Mary?" That sort of thing. Done with warmth and a bit of disdain. I'll never hear this song the same way again.
The next song was called "Maryland," aka "Mary Land," if you prefer. This song had some lovely vocal harmonies sung by the pianist and guitarist.
Bond talked about having worked a Waldenbooks many years ago and taking the George Plimpton oral biography of Edie Sedgwick home because of the cover. They encouraged us to go ahead and judge a book by its cover. They were inspired by the glamour of Sedgwick and hoped they could emulate her. But now, in retrospect, they see that she she might not have been the best model due to the fact that she died at 28 of an overdose of downers. "She basically relaxed herself to death."
Next, "One of These Things First" by Nick Drake. They said that when a person you've heard is straight commits suicide at a young age (Drake was 26) they like to imagine that person was actually gay and would have come out if they had lived long enough. Hey, what ever helps you sleep at night, Mx. Bond! Bond did their best singing of the night in this song, their voice had a wistful quality.
The next one was a song that Bond had listened to over and over during the dark days of Covid. I haven't been able to find it online but it had the refrain, "So tired seeing all the good ones gone." I would be much obliged if someone could tell me what this song was, it was a stunner and Bond belted their little heart out. They got derailed at one point and had to ask the band to riff while they figured out how to re-enter. This is easy to do with a band of three, people you've worked with for years. It might explain why Bond was so immaculately prepared when they sang with the NY Philharmonic this winter.
I didn't know the next song, "And the Wind Cries Mary," was a Jimi Hendrix number! Again with the Mary. I'm sure some resourceful cabaret singer has paired this song with "They Call the Wind Maria."
One of the funniest remarks of the evening: "I don't do coke anymore. It makes me too snarky, and I have a problem with that AS IS."
Bond showed off their necklace, which was a somewhat arty representation of a can opener. It was gift of a friend, who gave it to Bond after they had opened up so many venues at the end of lockdown: the Harvey Theater at BAM, St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, I think there were three or four others. How delightful, what an honor.
Bond explained their dress. I saw it as a modified mermaid kind of look. It was made by a "girlfriend," who had hand-tied all of the pink synthetic ribbons to the underdress. Bond got it in the mail and it was in a large plastic bag. "I opened it and the stench of 17 cartons of cigarettes filled the room. It was heavenly. I wish you could smell it, it's like Nicorette in a dress."
The best story of the evening was about Arizona. "My least favorite state, I HATE Arizona. I think this is because it was the site of my first psychotic break. Well, the first I recognized as such. I was ten years old on a family vacation. I was playing Tiddlywinks or some such game with a cousin and I just started SCREAMING. An aunt of mine, whatever woman my uncle was married to at the time, picked me up and carried me into their house and laid me out in their California king mattress. She drew the curtains, switched on the AC, and put a cold compress on my head. She allowed people to come in and visit me, but only one at a time. And they had to speak in hushed tones."
I thought the next song, Bambi Lake's "The Golden Age of Hustlers," was a little drippy. But clearly Bond loved it or they wouldn't have included it. And then a delightful song, perfect for pride, "Drag Queens in Limousines." Nuns in blue jeans!
I knew the song "I Believe in Love" but I had forgotten it was by Kenny Loggins! Wow, great song. I bet it sounded especially great on LP on a humid summer night, when your parents were out to dinner and you were dancing with your siblings on the shag carpet.
The next song was by Erasure, "A Little Respect." Bond warned us early in the show they didn't feel much like talking, they would mostly just be singing a song and moving on to the next song. That Erasure song was supposed to be the last song but it was too early to stop! So they told a hilarious, RACY story about Nancy Reagan. Bond has a theory about a gay man who's a high-ranking official in the United States Post Office and had a secret agenda behind releasing the Nancy Reagan stamp during Pride Month. The story is too racy to print here, please email or call me if you want me to tell it. It's worth the effort.
They did a song honoring the solstice and Pride and Kate Bush, who's having a big resurgence due to a song of hers ("Running Up That Hill") being used in a recent episode of *Stranger Things.* The song was "Nocturn" and Bond went into a STATE, it was lyrical, hypnotic, and intense. Sytkowski played a solo piano interlude that had a lot of Rachmaninoffy flourishes. One stop shopping!
Bond sat on the edge of the stage for the encore, a medley of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" and a song I didn't know and haven't been able to find online. The lyric fragments I wrote down are, "Whiskey gives you wings," "The moon does not belong to you," and "A heart that's been broken will be stronger when it mends." Again, I'd appreciate anyone being able to identify this song.