Posted on October 17, 2016 at 2:45 am

One of the unexpected blessings of having written The Bridges of Madison County is my relationship to the theater community of Des Moines. I’ve met folks at all of the local theater companies, and thanks to Jeff Chelesvig and the gang at Des Moines Performing Arts, I’ve been able to make a lot of great music – conducting the Des Moines Symphony at Yankee Doodle Pops with 100,000 people in the crowd; leading the pit orchestra for two glorious weeks when Bridges opened its national tour at the Civic Center; and now three concerts in the beautiful Temple Theater. Every time, I’m struck by how well the audiences in Des Moines listen – I always feel like people are truly taking in all of the story we’re trying to tell. There’s a stillness and an empathy to Iowa crowds that is very different from the way audiences respond on the coasts.

I’ve known about Eden Espinosa for a long time – I remember Gary Sieger raving about her when he was the pit guitarist for Brooklyn on Broadway – but we’ve never worked together until now. Being the legendary procrastinator that I am, I didn’t send Eden the set list until five days before the show – like a total boss, she showed up on Friday with six songs memorized and ready to go! When we got to sound check, we were both a little nervous – singing with someone is a very intimate act, and having to create instant chemistry can be really stressful. But within four measures, we were both totally grooving and having a great time. By the end of these three concerts, we were like old friends, stretching and phrasing together and pushing each other to new places. And we get to do it again – Eden will be performing with me at SubCulture on November 14 in NYC! Tickets available here!

As I was flying into Des Moines, I tweeted that I was so dispirited and beaten down by this endless awful election campaign that all I wanted to sing were songs by the Muppets. Since I still felt that way at showtime, I opened with “The Rainbow Connection,” and you know what? It helped. Kermit always makes me feel better. Other highlights: Eden’s rifftastic and deeply felt version of “What It Means To Be A Friend”; getting to go full-on Cher-and-Peter-Cetera with “I’d Give It All For You”; and the thrilling sound of Eden unleashing that unbelievable belt at the end of “Goodbye Until Tomorrow.” It also meant a lot to me to be performing “Cassandra,” a song bursting with feminist fire, at the end of a week where the news was filled with almost manic misogyny. We will all get through this election together, I know we will, but boy, it will have cost us something.

And hey, I didn’t lose my voice, which is a huge personal success for me! I can’t wait until my next trip to Des Moines! Thank you to everyone there for being such great hosts and audiences.

The Rainbow Connection (Williams/Ascher, 1979)
I Love Betsy from Honeymoon In Vegas
The Old Red Hills of Home from Parade
Cassandra from The Connector
Eden: What It Means To Be A Friend from 13
Eden: Still Hurting from The Last Five Years
I Could Be In Love With Someone Like You from Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes
Fifty Years Long
Wondering from The Bridges of Madison County (on Friday night, I did “It All Fades Away” instead)
Eden: Another Life from The Bridges of Madison County
Eden & JRB: I’d Give It All For You from Songs for a New World
Eden: Goodbye Until Tomorrow from The Last Five Years
Moving Too Fast from The Last Five Years
Eden & JRB: Brand New You from 13
Someone To Fall Back On from Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes

Back I go to London to get The Last Five Years ready for its first performance at the St James Theatre on October 28 – it’s going to be an incredible show. I hope you’ll come join us! Then it’s back to SubCulture for November 14, and there’s more news to come!

Credits: