Most people think of Randy Newman as a funny guy, and he certainly got a lot of laughs at the Bayou last night. When he sang his one-song greatest hits medley "Short People," he exaggerated bigotry to the point of hilarious absurdity; he did the same with yuppie ambition on "It's Money That I Love." Nonetheless, Newman can be absolutely chilling as well. His 1983 tune "Christmas at Capetown" is still the best song about apartheid, and last night his monologue on an increasingly desperate African surfer made today's headlines piercingly personal.
At times, Newman was funny and chilling in the same song. On "Rednecks," for example, he got the crowd laughing at dumb southern crackers and then brought them up short by skewering northern hypocrisy. Newman's piano playing, often underrated, was better than ever. He produced a nice, easy Fats Domino roll on "Lover's Prayer," a dramatic, muted minimalism on "Marie," a Eubie Blake ragtime break on "Birmingham" and a rocking boogie beat on "I Love L.A."
Local comic Chip Franklin opened the show with a sloppy but nonetheless funny stand-up routine that mercilessly mocked targets ranging from high school drunks to Virginia mall shoppers.