Amy Winehouse played Joe's Pub Tuesday night. I wasn't there because everybody else was. Seriously, from what I understand, if you're in the music biz or you write about the music biz or you date someone who writes about the music biz, chances are you either had a seat or were trying to get a seat for these two shows.
I got to sit in on the soundcheck.
I guess this is how it works.
Right now, only a few of us Americans know about her, but Amy's really big in England. Huge. She's got it all--talent, controversy, talent and controversy. Also, more hair than a Wookie. And tattoos. And a great album that hasn't come out in the States yet. It's coming in March. This visit is the shotgun blast across the bow, it's the prelude to the main event, it's the meet and greet.
Did I mention she heckled Bono at an awards show? Well, everyone will when they write about her. You will grow sick and tired of hearing about that one.
As the band checked levels, she wandered around Joe's doing a couple of phone interviews. I could hear her talking about all-girl groups that influenced her and how she had a great boyfriend and how much she liked the new songs and I imagined reading the finished piece in a month or two when there's some product to push--it must be nice to have an organized marketting campaign. She flipped through the pages of a magazine during some down-time, grooving to the musicians finding their levels. She seemed relaxed and she took it all in stride, enjoying the last moments of this sustained moment before whatever happens next happens.
Who knows? Maybe this afternoon was like the Beatles first flight to America--a last quiet moment before everyone starts screaming. Maybe it's the beginning of a beautiful relationship where all the controversy that swirls around her in England won't matter because we all get to hear her for the first time. It's a clean slate. Maybe she has a couple of classic albums coming down the pike--songs that people will be singing along with in their cars on the way to the beach. Songs that people will play to remember long-lost moments and faded friends. They'll get all wistful and turn to the person next to them and say, "Amy Winehouse always makes me smile."
Or maybe no one will care. Maybe there's going to be a bigger story in two months. Maybe the stars won't align. Maybe Bono will blame African famine on her and we'll all buy it because she has a lot of hair and sometimes sings drunk on British television (for God's sake, it was a Michael Jackson cover--I'd get drunk and pull a late-career Dylan on it too).
Who knows? She certainly didn't behave as if she had any expectations . . .
Last night she played two short shows for the opinion makers, but yesterday afternoon she sang a bunch of songs, laughed with her singers, taught the guitarist a tricky chord change and I called Jeff to make him jealous. And, although I really would have liked to be at the shows, I can't say that I much minded having the place to myself. I got me a private show before everyone else started telling me what it was I was supposed to think about her--and I'm a very impressionable person. So, for me, Amy Winehouse is always going to remind me of that time I was just starting as the resident artist at Joe's Pub and it was time for a final soundcheck.
For more links and a nice little sample track go to Tofuhut.