This past Friday, the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I waited for hours in the cold along with an astoundingly international crowd to see Lucy Lawless perform at the Roxy in West Hollywood. Then, on Saturday, we rolled out of bed and did it again--this time in the pouring rain.
With a sturdy umbrella to shield us, the Girlfriend and I enjoyed the lively company of our fellow Xena fans as we waited to be let in to the club. I can't remember precisely the last time I had to wait for hours outside in torrential rain--I think it may have been a muddy Lilith Fair in Scranton, PA--but I'm sure this was the most fun I've ever had doing so.
In the weeks leading up to the concert Lucy had stated she would be performing country music and called for people to show up in country and western clothing. Cat Crimmins, the evening's MC, gamely arrived on stage looking like she had raided Jack Palance's wardrobe. In the year since she appeared as Lucy's MC at the 2007 Roxy show, Cat has launched a standup career and has appeared at various venues around Los Angeles.
For this event, Cat drew on her history as a fan to serve up some Xena- and BSG-based humor, which was warmly received by the crowd. The Internet has revealed the deep and passionate feelings people have for series TV, so it seems entirely natural to me that comics and other performers should be born out of TV fandom. Of course, Cat does non-TV-based humor as well. In any case, based on what I heard the gals in line saying about Cat "Easy on the Eyes" Crimmins, I'd say she's a rising star in the Xenaverse.
Tig Nataro came back to do her standup routine and, as I've said before, she's fearless and effing brilliant. Tig also adhered to a country costume, wearing a chambray shirt with embroidered flowers across the yoke one night and an Ellie May Clampett styled check shirt the next. As usual, Tig was amazingly deft at improvising with the audience and had us gasping for breath between laughs.
Finally, Lucy took the stage, opening with "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" which transitioned into "Heartache Tonight." The country theme was evident in Lucy's outfit, which included low-waisted, poured-on dungarees, a white short-sleeved shirt, a wide belt with a buckle representing a Maori carving, patent leather heels and 70s retro jewelry. On the next night, the shirt changed to brown and the jeans became silver-spangled chaps. The living, breathing, ever-morphing entity known as Lucy's hair was coiffed in a hairstyle I call "early dinette."
Most of Lucy's song choices throughout the evening were in an "Americana" vein and were meant to reflect the cycle of feelings one experiences in love, from agony to disillusionment to joy. These included well-known hit songs like "A Love Song," "Winner at a Losing Game," "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" and "Kiss You All Over."
There were two women in Lucy's band this time around, a violinist and a bassist. Overall, the music was much mellower than in the past, creating an intimate mood. Although Lucy's energy onstage was lessened, she was able to offer more direct eye contact with the audience than at previous concerts. This also enabled her to infuse certain songs with a more dramatic or narrative element.
The best example of this in my opinion was Lucy's haunting rendition of "Superstar." When I read, in advance of the concert, that Lucy was going to be performing this song, I wondered if her version would veer closer to the Carpenters' tune or to Sonic Youth's inspired cover. I also wondered how she was going to make it through the lyric "What to say / to make you come again" without dissolving in laughter.
As it turns out, laughing was not an issue. Lucy's skills as an actor and singer turned the song into a devastating tearjerker. I was embarrassed to find my mouth twitching as I repeated over and over in my head, "You are NOT going to cry at a Carpenter's song. You are NOT." Then I realized about three or four people around me were crying. I mean outright bawling. It was terrifying in a way. I'm going to assume Michael Orland was responsible for the song's arrangement; dude: Respect.
Lucy also excelled on Tuck & Patti's song, Wide Awake, which she performed as part of her encore. She performed an original song called "New and Beautiful" and a song she recorded as part of a forthcoming soundtrack, called "Beautiful Mistake." Rounding out the evening were "Walkin' After Midnight," "Sweetheart" and "Wonderful."
Two interludes broke up the music and provided an opportunity for fan participation. The first was a Lucy trivia game called "Friends versus Fans: Who Loves Me More?" that pitted Lucy's best friend, Marissa Jaret Winokur, against a fan chosen from the audience. Marissa also wore a countryish outfit, half Oklahoma! cast member and half Marianne from Gilligan's Island.
I imagine that if I were a celebrity, this would be a fun entertainment to stage. As a fan, I felt a bit sorry for Marissa, as she was obviously about to be trounced. I mean, Marissa's a busy celebrity herself, and probably has her own flock of fans she needs to herd and tend and feed and so on. But if you're just an ordinary schmoe like myself, what else do I really have to do all day but obsess over details of Lucy's past and present?
I was certain this was going to be no contest, and that's exactly what it was. I'm proud to say it was my own Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend who contributed the correct "lifeline" answer of Yentl to the question, "What does Lucy think is the greatest movie ever made?"
The second interlude was a joke advice/Q&A session between Lucy and Renee O'Connor, using questions supposedly submitted by the fans. The first night was "Dear Gabby" and the second night was "Ask Xena," with Lucy and Renee taking turns as the one asking or answering.
The verbal exchange between Lucy and Renee followed one of the highlights of the evening, Renee's appearance on stage to sing "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" with Lucy. Renee's voice was clear and sweet--or at least what could be heard of it over the screaming of the fans.
On Saturday night Renee sashayed across the stage in a witchy Stevie Nicks-type outfit, which included heeled lace-up high boots and a fringed purple dress. The effect it had was kind of like when you see a long tunnel and at the end there's this white light and you look around and you go, "Oh, I must be in heaven now," and then you go back into your body and you realize that you didn't die, you were just smushed against the stage awful tight there for a moment and look, there's Renee again.
Renee has this gentle groove thing she does with her shoulders onstage, gyrating them forward and down that makes you think, sweet baby Jesus, this woman is trying to ruin me. It's just a lot for any lesbian to bear. And it's only going to get worse, now that we know, via Katherine Fugate, that Renee will be appearing on Army Wives in the future, apparently in a lesbian role.
One woman in the audience lost restraint and threw her panties on stage at Lucy. When Renee came on stage Friday night, she casually picked up the fan's panties and stuffed them down the back of her black leather pants. I leave you with that image, below.
Special thanks to Sharon Delaney of Creation Entertainment for her assistance in fleshing out Lucy's song list.