Back in the days when Justin Bond mostly performed as Kiki DuRane of Kiki & Herb, that deranged duo would always do Christmas shows that were the most hilariously blasphemous and vitriolic thing in town. Now that Justin Vivian Bond has shed the DuRane persona and stands ever more firmly center stage (and in the center of the gender specturm), v’s Christmas show naturally takes a much different form.
In “Snow Angel”, this year’s Christmas show, JVB’s own persona is plenty big enough and v’s wit is spontaneous, an acidly funny stream of consciousness – what do you know, hilarious blasphemy and vitriol still come pretty naturally to Justin! The stories v tells now are more personal; now, instead of toying with Kiki’s complicated fictional relationship with Christianity, Bond can actually put v’s own pagan ambivalence about Christmas at the heart of the show. And the music can be performed with less irony and greater feeling – after singing Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Made in America”, JVB specifically said “I hate post-rap irony, so I did my best to be sincere.”
There’s a lot of songs by Melanie Safka (of “Brand New Key” and “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” fame), and Melanie’s dangerously earnest passion defines the tone of this act. The musical backing from Brett Every on piano and Nath Ann Carrera on guitar is sophisticated, warm and rich. Amber Martin on backing vocals can stand up to Bond’s titanic vocal power, a very tall order. There’s nothing particularly jazzy about the arrangements – if anything they are redolent of folk rock and chamber pop – but there is a powerful sense of improvisational give and take.
Bond is one of the most original and potent performers of our time, whom I think everybody should see at least once. Or more often – there’s something new and freshly rewarding about every single performance.
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.