One way to get people to smile at you on the street in New York City is to carry a giant floating smile emoji. Another is to hum Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke. Anyone walking past me on Monday night would have had the opportunity to experience both, thanks to the wonder of Mr Wonder.
Stevie Wonder played three shows in three different cities – starting in Washington DC, then moving onto Philadelphia, before finishing at Central Park. The 65-year-old’s team made the announcement on the Internet, as links and passwords spread online, for the chance to see the legend perform a free show. Online, the tickets were gone in about a minute, but there were plenty being handed out in Gramercy Park. Or just outside the entrance to Summerstage, where people were feeling like Father Christmas handing out presents to strangers passing by. “Hey, do you need a ticket?” Here!” It was quite a lovely sight.
Inside Summerstage, on a muggy Monday night, Stevie took to the stage to great applause. He announced he’d be playing the last of his Songs in the Key of Life tour dates, for the US at least, this Autumn, and that he’d end the tour at Madison Square Garden. At these shows, the 65-year old has been playing for three hours at a time, so hitting three cities in one day seemed a breeze for him. After every song he performed on Monday night, he would let out an exuberant “ooh” or “aahhh.”
I’d only seen Stevie perform two songs at Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday concert at Radio City Music Hall in 2008 and he seems just as spirited as back then in 2009.
Before he started singing, Stevie used the opportunity to speak on something he says he’s been praying about, the way he does about a song or anything else of importance in his life. He, like a lot of other Americans, wants to see stricter gun control and more accountability on the issue. He was met with resounding cheers. “If you shoot a gun, then you must claim the bullet,” he stated, before launching into an anthem that’s ever-necessary, Love’s In Need of Love Today.
When he started If It’s Magic, the woman behind me squealed, “oooh, this is my favourite!” Another few favourites followed: Village Ghetto Land, then Sir Duke, then I Wish, As, and finally Another Star. “We can’t stay here all night,” he teased. “But we gon’ be AlRIGHT!” he added – quoting the Kendrick Lamar track. Earlier he played a bit of the Weeknd’s Can’t Feel my Face. Ever the cool cat.
Stevie suggested he’ll be heading back to the studio once he’s wrapped this tour. Perhaps we’ll be treated to Kendrick and Stevie on a track together. Now that would be all RIGHT!
* A theatre show about American history is making history…
The production Hamilton already has the thumbs up from President Barack Obama, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Susan Sarandon, SJP, Samuel L Jackson, and now me, haha. Hamilton comes from a book and songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the mind behind another successful Tony-winning stage show, In the Heights. It had a sold-out extended run off-Broadway, before opening last week to sterling reviews from celebs and loyal Broadway-goers alike. It’s based on a best-selling bio by historian Ron Chernow turned into a book and stage show by Lin-Manuel, and uses hip hop to tell the story of his role in the American Revolution. The show already earned $30 million in ticket sales before it opened on Broadway. Lin-Manuel melds hop hop with show tunes and he plays the lead character. You’ll no doubt be hearing more about this – and if you have a trip planned to NYC anytime soon, make sure you try get tickets.
* One of Hollywood’s most beloved dogs has died…
Uggie – the star of the 5-time Oscar-winning movie The Artist – has gone to heaven. His owner and trainer Omar von Muller, confirmed the news after TMZ reported Uggie was put to sleep Friday in LA. The 13-year-old Jack Russell had a cancerous tumour in the prostate. Uggie starred as The Dog alongside Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in The Artist, which also won Best Picture in 2012. He received the Palm Dog award for his work in the film at the Cannes Film Festival and also became the first dog to put his paw prints in cement outside Grumman’s Chinese There at a ceremony marking his retirement in 2012. He also acted in films like Water for Elephants with Reese Witherspoon. He truly captured our hearts so it is surely worth remembering the joy he brought to the big screen and off it.
* African artist Petite Noir released his striking new music video…
Cape Town-based, half-Angolan, half-Congolese new-wave pop producer Yannick Iluga is following up the release of his debut EP The King of Anxiety, with a full-length album called La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful. The lead single for his new album is called Best, and the video that accompanies it is full of splendid imagery that will cause a few shifts in perspectives about the African continent. He performs at Afropunk Fest next weekend.
It’s an easy 3-4 miles starting out in the centre of Times Square to see the giant Seward Johnson sculpture based on the famous Life picture commemorating the end of WWII. I would advise you do this when it’s not so busy (before dawn, after midnight, haha) or use the bobbing-and-weaving to practice for race day. Head towards 46th and past the Richard Rodgers Theatre (where you’ll hopefully be picking up tickets to the show), loop back around to get back onto Broadway, which you’ll take all the way down, past the Flatiron Building, through Washington Square Park and onto West Broadway, past the JR/Os Gemeos/ Mr Andre street art collaboration. Head south towards Canal St, and turn right onto Church. Three blocks over, you’ll find JR’s 75-foot tall ballerina, based on his art film. Turn around and loop back up West Broadway until you reach Houston St. Run towards the east side, until you hit Bowery and make a left at the Bowery mural. You’ll soon see the bright colours of Jamie xx’s pop-up shop, which is in NYC until Sunday the 16th of August.
In one of those New York moments, I found myself in a back lot in Little Italy on Sunday night, watching Corey Glover, lead singer for funk-metal pioneers Living Colour, drop his mic – and actual mic stand – to the ground, after he’d delivered a Sunday sermon that seemed to shake the very walls around us. Walls that had fresh paint on them as part of the L.I.S.A Project’s Loman Arts Festival. Walls, Glover encouraged us to look at instead of at him, but the way he was quivering and moving with the spirit of the songs he was singing, that was very hard to do.
I had hoped he would do Cult of Personality, Living Colour’s Grammy-winning, signature track. A track I was introduced to back in Cape Town by a musician friend some 10 years after it was released. Hey, better late than never, right? The songs Glover did perform were solid enough to make me think about how much I’ve missed hearing good ol’ fashioned rock music, complete with soul-digging singing and rough guitars.
Glover, fresh off supporting Aerosmith, was singing Last Temptation, acapella, when his voice quivered with the spirit within the song. He paused to take a moment and talk about the trouble with New York, his place of birth, at the moment, and the special kind of “love, beauty and art” it takes to live here in the Big Apple. Coincidentally, it riffed off the conversation a Parisian friend and I had on the ride over about him wanting to move here and the boxes he needs to tick before he can.
I didn’t know Glover’s nickname is Reverend Daddy Love. I now know why. The lyrics he sang about, and the verve with which he sang them, swirled around in my mind as I took in the art pieces that had been painted for the fest – all in the name of beautifying the lower parts of Manhattan, and keeping things culturally alive. If you find yourself in Little Italy and the LES, keep an eye out for the new works. They may not leave you as invigorated as seeing Glover perform live – that has to be seen to truly be experienced – but they will make you feel like the soul of a city that’s constantly changing is never truly lost.
Ron English’s new Temper Tot
Leon Reid’s Mr Stop
A Space Invader is always welcome
Art is Trash in action
Bio Tats Cru, Binho Ribeiro and Nicer Tats Cru Secret Walls Mural
Oh, and Glover’s other band Galactic plays Brooklyn Bowl August 14th.
Hola from Puerto Rico! This time I’m actually on a much-appreciated holiday, but still running, of course…
* Dr Dre has released his first album in 16 years…
While we wait patiently for Frank Ocean’s imminent sophomore album, there’s another one to get excited about. Dr Dre. In the past 16 years, the pioneering artist has been a producer, a talented A & R man and a savvy and very wealthy businessman with Beats and then the Apple collaboration. Now, he’s about to go back to what he’s known for – making music. Compton is releasing instead of Detox which had been the long-awaited album he was set to put out. It coincides with the release of the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton. Does he still have it? is the question. He’s pulled in some of his most well-known collaborators and also introducing us to new protégés, something he’s usually been pretty good at over the years. The album, which is available from Friday, features 16 new Dre songs and appearances by Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and more. He’s also going to be donating the royalties to an arts centre in Compton.
* A number of celebrity splits happened this week…
Splitsville was the name of the town Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale visited this week, when they announced their divorce after 12 years of marriage, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog also announced they are going to be seeing other people, frogs and pigs (although I am hoping that one’s just a TV publicity stunt for The Muppets show), and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith reaffirmed their commitment to each other and denied divorce rumours. I don’t usually do these gossip/personal life stories, but these are the kinds of couples we’ve come to see as stables in showbiz, so it does feel like something shifts if they are no longer together. Even Lenny Kravitz experienced a split of his own – when his pants tour on stage in Stockholm, revealing he was wearing no underwear. And he carried on playing. Always knew he was a rockstar among rockstars. Also, Jon Stewart bid the Daily Show goodbye with his last hosting this past Thursday. But, Jennifer Aniston married Justin Theroux, so maybe it’s not all Down with Love entirely.
* Fantastic Four hits the cinema and so does the Deadpool trailer…
The reviews haven’t been too kind to the film, and director Josh Trank has implied that 20th Century Fox meddled in the film he intended to make. The re-imagined origin story of Marvel’s longest-running superheroes stars Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell and Michael B. Jordan. The Deadpool trailer has been tacked onto the film as a preview. Let’s hope this one is as much of a winner for Ryan Reynolds as it looks.
For a very scenic 3 miles in Old San Juan, start from the Plaza De La Rogativa, at the sculpture done by Kiwi artist Lindsey Daen, and head up the hill towards Castillo San Felipe del Morro, otherwise known as El Morro. Take in the breathtaking National Monument that’s been standing since the 16th Century. Head down the street Calle Cruz, with its wonderful coloured buildings, turn right on Calle San Fransisco. Right again on Calle del Cristo where you’ll find the Old San Juan Cathedral. Head down del Cristo, towards the Marina, turn left on Calle Tetuan, and run along it until you get to Castillo de San Cristobal. You then have time to explore its 5 levels and then head back to El Morro, with your ticket from Cristobal!
Make sure you stop by Cafe Mallorca, an old-school diner the locals frequent, where their speciality is a mallorca, a sweet bread-like pastry filled with guava and cheese. Also, I can attest that their chocolate cake slice goes down well after a long run of 10 miles or more. Marathon-training can be used to discount many calories, ha!
Hello from Atlanta! I’ve been visiting the set of the Allegiant movie, the third installment in the Divergent series…
* Sad news came with the death of Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina…
She was found unresponsive in the bathtub of her home here in Georgia, 6 months ago, and never fully regained consciousness. The 22-year-old was the only daughter of the late Whitney Houston and had begun starting to find her own voice as an aspiring singer and actress. A funeral will be held for her in Atlanta this weekend – and then she’ll be laid to rest next to her mother at a Fairview Cemetery in New Jersey. It’s been a sad and controversial death – Bobbi Kristina was found in similar circumstances to her mother – in a bathtub, although you may remember Whitney Houston’s death was caused by accidental drowning and also a heart attack involving the use of cocaine. Preliminary autopsy results showed no significant injuries, but full results won’t be available for weeks.
* Major film festivals announced their lineups – including the Toronto Film Festival…
In the first wave of films announced for TIFF 2015 – 15 galas and 34 special presentations were revealed. There should be around 300 films in total that will be announced before the fest kicks off in September. It will open withDemolition, the new one by Jean-Marc Vallee, who gave us the excellent Dallas Buyers Club and most recently Wild. Films that will be making their world premiere there – and surely attract some kind of Oscar buzz include, Freeheld with Steve Carell and Julianne Moore, whose Academy Award-winning performance in Still Alice sold at TIFF last year. Ridley Scott’s The Martian, with Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, the Lance Armstrong biopic The Program made by Stephen Frears with Ben Foster in the title role, the Lady in the Van with Maggie Smith – which I saw some preview footage of in Cancun in June and it looks good – and thenBryan Cranston in another biopic called Trumbo. The Danish Girl with a transgender turn from Eddie Redmayne, who also started his Oscar-race at last year’s TIFF, with Theory of Everything, is most certainly another one to watch.And South African director Gavin Hood will premiere his latest film, called The Eye in the Sky about controversial drones, with Dame Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul. There’s also the chance to see some of the films that ranked high on the critics’ lists at Cannes earlier this year too.
Another Jake Gyllenhaal film will open the Venice Film Festival – this one is the film based on an epic climb, titled Everest.
We also found out that Steve Jobs starring Michael Fassbender is headlining the New York Film Festival at the end of September, which will open with The Walk, starring Joseph-Gordon Levitt as the French daredevil who walked across a tightrope from one World Trade Centre tower to another, and ending with Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic. Lots to look foreword to!
* Trevor Noah revealed what to expect from the new The Daily Show…
The comedian has been taking part in the annual TCA (TV Critics Association) tour where cast members and TV personalities meet up with press in LA and talk about what’s coming in the Fall (or as we say, Autumn) season when people like to get back in doors to watch the small screen (and in some cases of online streaming, the REALLY small screen). Noah says he’ll be incorporating more accents into the show, less Fox News-bashing and a different view on the stories of the day. Let’s see what he brings come September.
It’s a 3.5 mile route that gives you a great taste of some of Atlanta’s sights, which is a good overview if you, like me, are visiting for the first time.
Starting from the Margaret Mitchell house, where the Pulitzer Prize-winning author wrote the novel Gone with the Wind, which went on to become the classic movie starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Head north down Peachtree St NE, keep going until you see The Fox Theatre, which used to be a gilded 1920s movie house.
Keep going for another mile and you’ll hit Baker st, turn right and enjoy the hill going down because you’ll have to push going up it on the way back! You’ll see the World of Coca-Cola and the Atlanta Aquarium in front of you and the glorious Centenary Olympic Park to your left. Take in the gorgeous skyline. If you want, make a loop around and see the CNN HQ, the Viewpoint and then head back up Baker to finish the route back the way you came.
Pro-tip – make sure to fill up on Fried Green Tomatoes the night before, or after, at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, which has been cooking southern comfort food since 1945 and feels like sitting inside someone’s (very big) warm home.
PS Piedmont Park is not to be missed either! Head over there to do anything from 3-6 miles in absolutely incredible surroundings.