Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Jesus in New Orleans

Some songs are best heard in a live setting. This is one of them. Kate and I saw Over the Rhine in Columbus Friday night, and Karen Bergquist sang this song. I know it from Over the Rhine's album Ohio, but I was unprepared for the detonation that would go off in my heart in light of Hurricane Katrina. Obviously OTR didn't write the song with those circumstances in mind, but the song took on whole new shades of meaning, and I don't know if I've ever heard a vocalist put quite so much soul and passion into a performance. It was obvious that the song had taken on a new meaning for the band as well.

The last time I saw Jesus
I was drinking bloody mary's in the South
In a barroom in New Orleans
Rinsin' out the bad taste in my mouth

She wore a dark and faded blazer
With a little of the lining hanging out
When the jukebox played Miss Dorothy Moore
I knew that it was him without a doubt

I said the road is my redeemer
I never know just what on earth I'll find
In the faces of a stranger
In the dark and weary corners of a mind

She said, The last highway is only
As far away as you are from yourself
And no matter just how bad it gets
It does no good to blame somebody else

Ain't it crazy
What's revealed when you're not looking all that close
Ain't it crazy
How we put to death the ones we need the most

I know I'm not a martyr
I've never died for anyone but me
The last frontier is only
The stranger in the mirror that I see

But when I least expect it
Here and there I see my savior's face
He's still my favorite loser
Falling for the entire human race

Ain't it crazy
What's revealed when you're not looking all that close
Ain't it crazy
How we put to death the ones we need the most

Let the politicians cast their recriminations and point their fingers. We have better things to do. Today there are a hundred thousand faces of Jesus in New Orleans. Some of them are handing out food and water, and some of them are wearing faded blazers with the lining hanging out, and are only too happy to be clothed and fed. They are all important. Every one of them.


John McCollum said...


good call. I'll listen to that song with a different ear from here on out.

Karen said...

so bummed i missed seeing OTR. :(
how was the whole show?

Andy Whitman said...

Karen, the show was very good. Sometimes on the albums the raw ingredients don't always gel for me. I hear excellent songwriting, decent musicianship, and a soulful vocalist, but I don't always want to listen much to the results. Live, this band rarely disappoints me. And they didn't Friday night. Karen had clearly been impacted by Hurricane Katrina (who hasn't been?), and her vocals were amazingly intense. The band focused on the material from Drunkard's Prayer and Ohio, the last two album, but also mixed in a few old favorites, and ended with an impossible cover of Van Morrison's "Moondance" -- impossible because Van owns that song, and nobody else could really do it justice, but OtR came close.

The other weird thing is that I had two total strangers come up to me at the concert and ask, "Hey, are you Andy Whitman?" It turned out that they were two of the 47,823,592 people known by Jeff Cannell, and they knew me from that connection.

mg said...

glad to hear it was a good show. their live shows have been hit and miss for me ever since ric left. some night they're on and some nights they're off. but glad you caught them on a good night