Great Performances

Last week, a few hours before placing my fingers on my computer’s keypad, I toyed with the idea of writing in depth about the world’s never-ending cavalcade of horrors: the man-made and also the ones bestowed by Mother Nature. Among those of recent vintage, Russia’s pummeling of Ukraine for the past 13 months is the first category’s undisputed leader. Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, which killed nearly 60,000 people earlier this year, top the second.

But, seeing that I ain’t anyone’s go-to guy for news analysis or for astute political and philosophical commentary, I decided to ditch said idea and head instead in a direction I’m more in tune with. The next however-many hundreds of words, therefore, are devoted to artistic performances that recently knocked me off my aged, wrinkly feet.

First up are the acting jobs — as profound as any you could hope to see — turned in by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain in George & Tammy, a mini-series available on various platforms, including Showtime. The show tells the intertwined tales of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, country music stars long deceased, who loved one another to the end, despite divorcing in 1975 after six years of marriage (Jones passed in 2013, Wynette in 1998.) More than anything else, Jones’ heavy drinking caused the union to crumble. He adored Wynette but, a troubled soul, was prone to violent outbursts. Conversely, Wynette, blessed with inherent sweetness, radiated calm and light in the face of a host of personal difficulties.

My wife Sandy and I gobbled up George & Tammy last month. It got to us, really moved us. It’s not perfect, though. A few too many clichéd scenes see to that. However, Shannon and Chastain are wonders to behold, and make production deficiencies almost irrelevant. Bringing their characters to life so believably, so naturally, they elevate each episode’s script to levels the writers likely never envisioned. And, by the way, Shannon and Chastain sing damn well too. I’ll now clearly state what I’ve been implying: George & Tammy is worth your time, even if you’re not a country music fan. I highly recommend it.

Anyone who is into paintings, graphics and sculptures probably is familiar with The Barnes Foundation, a museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Its collection, amassed over several decades by the late Albert Barnes, a wealthy physician, chemist and businessman who left this mortal coil in 1951, is nothing short of astonishing. The Barnes is drenched with works by Renoir, Cézanne, Soutine, Utrillo, Matisse and Van Gogh, to name but a few of the mid-1800s-to-mid-1900s artists the museum specializes in. It also showcases African masks and sculptures, ancient Greek sculptures, plus a ton of other creations. What a place!

Well, being someone who definitely is into the artforms listed above and who lives not terribly far from Philadelphia, I drop by the Barnes every few years (visiting more often than that would dampen my ability to view the collection with fresh eyes). One particular array of paintings has caught my attention on each of my last few visits, including the one I paid three weeks ago. Extending from one wall to the next, it presents four oils, three of them by Paul Cézanne and one by Vincent van Gogh. Those gentlemen, along with Claude Monet, are my favorite artists.

Cézanne and Van Gogh had the gift of getting to the heart of things, each from a different set of angles. The four oils in question — beautiful performances, if you will — are proof of this. I feel life forces simmering beneath Cézanne’s understated pallet of blues, grays, browns and greens. Van Gogh, of course, is more obviously expressive. He can’t contain his emotions.  It’s easy to spend more than a few moments gazing at his still life’s flowers and leaves, which seem ready to leap not only out of their container but off the canvas too. He painted it in 1888, one year before his death. Van Gogh, who had minimal commercial success during his life, would have been ecstatic, I’m sure, to know that in time his works would captivate people, and that he was destined to become a legend.

The final performance I’ll present is by Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, an American band that can rock like nobody’s business. Their recording Talkin’ To Myself came out a year and a half ago. It blew me away when I first heard it last year, and I dialed it up again the day before I began writing this story because I was in need of perfect, ass-kicking rock and roll. Lyrically this song doesn’t paint a happy picture but, man, sonically it’s amazing. Ferocious guitar licks and pounding drums that show no mercy surround Shook’s controlled-yet-sneering vocals. Press the Play button below if you’re ready to be jolted.

116 thoughts on “Great Performances

  1. Adele Fasick April 4, 2023 / 12:25 am

    I like the idea of going back time after time to see the same pictures in a museum. It’s amazing how art can grow on you as you see it over and over again. Every time I visit the DeYoung Museum here in San Francisco, I see something new in the pictures on display. The pictures may be the same, but somehow I see them differently on each visit.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 4, 2023 / 1:14 pm

      Hello Adele. Good point. And another thing about big museums is that they contain such a huge number of objects, there always are some to look at that we’ve never noticed before.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Suzanne April 4, 2023 / 12:39 am

    Art before disasters, always/ usually less stressful. Another good read, Neil.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Fran Johns April 4, 2023 / 12:40 am

    I don’t know George, Tammy, Sara or the Disarmers, but I love the Barnes Collection, especially those gorgeous Impressionists. Thanks for the memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lynette d'Arty-Cross April 4, 2023 / 2:24 am

    You have fantastic taste, Neil. I’ve followed your suggestions before and have always come away very appreciative. Thank you very much.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. johnlmalone April 4, 2023 / 2:51 am

    I’ll definitely check that film out, Neil; they were magnetic together in ‘Take Shelter’ —

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Paddy Tobin April 4, 2023 / 3:57 am

    When we have to acknowledge so much sadness, so many disaster, such a flow of unending horrors it is good to be able to turn to matters which are more uplifting. There was a story told of Winston Churchill, Prime Minister in England during World War 11, that it was suggested government cut funding for the arts. Churchill refused point blank asking what was the point of fighting a war if they were willing to lose all that was good already.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. joylennick April 4, 2023 / 4:51 am

    Hi Neil, I might be an ‘old broad’ but I still move to the music, man… Aren’t we lucky that we appreciate all `the arts? I knew a lady, who lived nearby, who declared “I don’t like music!” and I was flabbergasted. How can you not like some… music?! Good classical, Jazz, etc., And I’m a sucker for a good film. One of my three sons is a natural artist, but is now a writer for an American medical company, based in Denmark, where he lives and we share a love of all the arts. Bring it all on! Enjoy! Cheers. x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Platypus Man April 4, 2023 / 5:04 am

    Never heard of Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, but that song is a great listen. Sure woke me up!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Robert Parker April 4, 2023 / 6:21 am

    I’m promising myself to go to the Barnes next time I’m in Philadelphia, it sounds wonderful. I’ll put that tune on my headphones for viewing van Gogh!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. swabby429 April 4, 2023 / 6:57 am

    These are certainly trying times. Yes, it’s important to remember our positive cultural heritage. A visit to a museum keeps us in touch with our creative drives.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Helen Devries April 4, 2023 / 8:10 am

    I’m glad you decided against the disasters…..I’ll look for the series and try the music. A pity the museum is too far for a visit….but I’ll see if they have virtual coverage. Thanks again for widening my horizons.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Laurie Graves April 4, 2023 / 8:26 am

    I really like how you highlighted three very different “performances” in this piece. Will put “George and Tammy” on my TBW list. Unfortunately, Philadelphia and the Barnes are too far a way for me to visit. I really, really like “Talkin’ to Myself” and am listening to it for the second time. This will go on my YouTube list. Thanks so much for featuring it on your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. JOYCE HAMILTON April 4, 2023 / 8:59 am

    I have enjoyed visits at the Barns starting when it was in the burbs. Never saw George and Tammy but will keep in mind to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 4, 2023 / 1:33 pm

      I was always uneasy about the Barnes getting relocated from the burbs to Philly. It was a messy situation. One thing for sure, though, is that way more people visit it now than when it was in Lower Merion.


  14. Debra April 4, 2023 / 9:02 am

    Loved the Winston Churchill quote. It’s telling that the first thing that the ultra-conservatives want to control is the arts. OK, maybe the second thing after controlling women’s bodies. Look at the parents in Florida who forced out a principal after their school showed that “obscene” David to their children.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Misti April 4, 2023 / 10:39 am

    Ah, the impressionists never fail to leave a good impression! I love that era of work as I think a lot of people do. George and Tammy is definitely on my radar to watch but I’m attempting to watch a lot less tv than I have in the last 5-6 years so we’ll see if I ever get to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 4, 2023 / 1:37 pm

      “Ah, the impressionists never fail to leave a good impression!” — I might have to borrow that line!


  16. cindy knoke April 4, 2023 / 11:27 am

    So interesting & informative. I want to watch George & Tammy. Chastain is so talented.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Alyson April 4, 2023 / 12:50 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations, always ones I’m sure to like.

    Good idea to keep your visits to the Barnes limited – will always be something new to see every time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 4, 2023 / 1:41 pm

      The paintings and other objects are placed where Barnes himself placed them — and he had a non-traditional way of displaying things. He crammed lots and lots of artworks onto most walls, for instance. Some are so high up, you need amazing eyesight to see them properly.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Rosaliene Bacchus April 4, 2023 / 1:08 pm

    I thank the gods for these simple pleasures that you highlight in your delightful post. They help carry me through the “never-ending cavalcade of horrors” of our world.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. tanjabrittonwriter April 4, 2023 / 1:56 pm

    It’s better for our mental health to focus on Great Performances than on the human-made cavalcade of horrors. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 4, 2023 / 3:02 pm

      For sure. Fortunately, there are multitudes of positive things for us to get involved with. We’d be in deep, deep waters without them.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. J. Kelland Perry April 4, 2023 / 3:50 pm

    I will definitely look for the George and Tammy series. Chastain was so good acting as another Tammy in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 4, 2023 / 4:52 pm

      Ah, you’ve reminded me that my wife and I have the Tammy Faye movie on our to-be-watched list. It’s funny that she has played more than one character named Tammy.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. JT Twissel April 4, 2023 / 4:49 pm

    The George and Tammy story was a sad one. I had to skip through a lot of it. I can see why you like that song – classic rock!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Jacqui Murray April 4, 2023 / 5:04 pm

    I like your change of mind, Neal. George and Tammy–winners with the voices of angels.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Paula B April 4, 2023 / 5:52 pm

    The Sarah Shook song is high-octane rock! Based on your post I just recommended the band to a friend in Maryland. The band is coincidentally on tour and appearing in Baltimore next week! Maybe you should go, Neil!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 4, 2023 / 8:14 pm

      Hi Paula. They will be in Philly on April 19. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go that day. Nuts!


  24. Ann Coleman April 4, 2023 / 6:26 pm

    Those are my favorite artists, too! I’ve never been to the Barnes, but I’m lucky to have a great art museum in my home town….and your post reminded me that it’s time for another visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. The Coastal Crone April 4, 2023 / 8:48 pm

    Art and entertainment are better than the news headlines I saw today. I may have to check out Tammy and George.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 4, 2023 / 10:10 pm

      Hi. Thanks for adding your thoughts. I think you’ll like this series. I wasn’t expecting it to make a big impression on me, but it did because of the quality of the acting.


  26. shoreacres April 5, 2023 / 8:47 am

    The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists are wonderful; I’d say ‘favorites,’ but then I remember Georgia O’Keeffe and Winslow Homer and remember how futile some categorization can be. I enjoyed the beat of the song, but I’ll confess I had to search out the lyrics before I could understand them. It might have been the way the recording was mixed; the drums and such seemed to overpower them. I’d never heard of Shook, and am glad for the introduction.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Dave April 5, 2023 / 10:55 am

    The Barnes Collection may be… no, IS the most unique museum I’ve ever been to. I had the good fortune to be toured through by my niece, who worked there for a couple of years as a liaison to grade schools. I’m not really an art guy but it was fascinating to hear how the museum was set up as closely as possible to the way the art was displayed in the Barnes mansion. Even better, she showed me the eclectic collections, like the door hardware adjacent to artwork with similar-looking elements. In the end, I could care less about ~80% of the art (though I love the Impressionist pieces), but the museum itself was fascinating and well worth the visit.

    I listened to the Sarah Shook song while I scrolled through the reader comments – a nice combination of entertainment. Vintage rock-n-roll!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 5, 2023 / 2:16 pm

      You were fortunate to get a personal tour, by a knowledgeable person, of the Barnes. Its history is deep and also convoluted. A very messy story at times. But the art is superb. Take care. Enjoy the day!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. annieasksyou April 5, 2023 / 1:11 pm

    You definitely would excel as a PR person, Neil: your descriptions are very convincing.

    I still haven’t visited the Barnes Collection, but now I’m more motivated!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Jeff the Chef April 5, 2023 / 11:44 pm

    This is all new to me. I haven’t seen that show, haven’t been to that museum, and don’t know that band! I obviously have a lot of Catching up to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 6, 2023 / 7:26 am

      Hey, you’re a well-rounded guy. If you’re ever in Philly though, and if you like art, try and get to the Barnes museum.


  30. cincinnatibabyhead April 6, 2023 / 12:51 am

    I was thinking about George the other day. Something brought to mind a doc I’d seen where he finishes singing a song and says after the take “That was a morbid son of a bitch.” I stole the quote and use it often. Dont indulge in bio pics but your words and Shannon are nudging me towards it. Really like the tune. Stripped down rock the way CB likes it. Good piece Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 6, 2023 / 7:28 am

      Hi CB. Yeah, maybe give the series a try. You’ll know after one episode if you want to continue with it. See ya!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Ally Bean April 6, 2023 / 9:34 am

    You’re onto something with your idea of revisiting art as you get older. Points of view change, eyesight changes, and while the art remains the same, how you interpret it changes. And that’s fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 6, 2023 / 4:32 pm

      “Points of view change, eyesight changes, and while the art remains the same, how you interpret it changes.” — excellent points!

      Liked by 1 person

  32. andrewcferguson April 6, 2023 / 1:26 pm

    Excellent stuff – I’ll have a look for the George and Tammy series on Netflix, which is the only sub channel we use. Meantime, I am duly jolted!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. selizabryangmailcom April 6, 2023 / 2:54 pm

    I’m very familiar with the Tammy & George show, but my NDA prevents me from saying why exactly. Suffice it to say, apart from the cliches you mention, those two really DO do some great acting. I’m not into country western music per se, but the view into their lives and those of their mindset is pretty interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 6, 2023 / 4:37 pm

      Hey, Stacey. Have you watched the series Succession? My wife and I are almost through the first season. Pretty good show. Very intense at times.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. J P April 6, 2023 / 4:40 pm

    Thanks for these. The Missus and I are always looking for good television fare. I wish I had known about the Barnes back when we used to visit Philly.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. lookingforthehigherself April 6, 2023 / 10:01 pm

    What an interesting review of George & Tammy makes me want to watch despite not being much of a TV watcher.. I believe you about Jessica Chastain’s acting though, I find her mesmerising…

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Life...One Big Adventure April 6, 2023 / 11:54 pm

    Well, you are quite the Culture Vulture this post! I love that you have sampled so many varieties of late. My lone contribution is watching/listening to The Doobie Brothers in Sydney on Tuesday night. They can still rock it out, although I am not sure if the average age on the stage was higher than in the audience!! 🙂 Have a good day, Mel

    Liked by 1 person

  37. sniderjerry April 7, 2023 / 7:03 am

    Hey there Neil, as always, a great essay. I saw George and Tammy in concert way back in 1972. Great music, sad story. George cleaned up his act, stopped drinking and did some good shows right up to the end. Have a great day. Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 7, 2023 / 8:57 am

      Hey, Jerry. You saw a great show. They were married at the time, but were divorced a few years later.


  38. talebender April 7, 2023 / 11:12 am

    Like you, I enjoy country music, and share your love for Monet…..visited his home at Giverny a few years back.
    Another enjoyable, multimedia piece…..thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 7, 2023 / 1:26 pm

      A few years ago I saw Monet’s incredible water lily canvases in the Orangerie museum in Paris. He painted them specifically for this museum. I had always liked his art. But I liked him even more after seeing these works. They are really special.


      • talebender April 7, 2023 / 1:34 pm

        I saw those, too, and almost made mysef dizzy as I kept turning in circles to stare at them.

        Liked by 1 person

  39. eden baylee April 7, 2023 / 2:53 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations Neil, I’ve added George and Tammy to my list “to watch”. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers <<< love the rootsy, poppy, country sound. Excellent band!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 7, 2023 / 5:43 pm

      Hi Eden. I’m not the world’s biggest country music fan, but that didn’t take away from my liking George & Tammy. Have a good weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  40. alhenry April 9, 2023 / 6:28 pm

    “Starry, starry night
    Paint your palette blue and gray
    Look out on a summer’s day
    With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.”

    You’ll no doubt recognize Don McLean’s lyrics here, which is to affirm that I am with you, my friend: Vincent VanGogh–it doesn’t get any better than that.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. ellie894 April 9, 2023 / 9:50 pm

    The Barnes sounds like a wonderful way to spend some time. A couple years ago Van Gogh’s Olive Grove paintings had a special exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art. It was amazing! I’m fascinated at how carefully the curators display the works to make the very best of them.
    Nice jolt! 🎶

    Liked by 1 person

  42. denisebushphoto April 10, 2023 / 6:00 pm

    Oh … I’m glad you liked George & Tammy too. I think I mentioned it a comment in one of your previous posts! Being an art student in Philadelphia I went to the Barnes Museum before it moved and before moving visited the new, improved . Great post … you often bring me back to old familiar places!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 10, 2023 / 10:36 pm

      Hi. I remember that you told me you attended Moore art college. I walked past it a couple of weeks ago. I was on my way to the Victory brewpub, which is on Ben Franklin Parkway near 18th Street.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s