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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review of “The Dude” on Maui

Last night “The Dude”, a/k/a Jeff Bridges performed at the Kaanapali Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa as part of the Maui Celebrity Series.

There’s a big temptation to just say: The Dude abided with the audience. And then quote some Big Lebowski lines, say he performed a few songs and hang loose. After all, he performed on Maui where hang loose is the island motto—and it was The Dude. But I’m going to resist that impulse and tell you about Bridges’ performance. Because it is worth recounting.

Bridges did not wear a bathrobe or an Hawaiian aloha shirt. Instead, he started out wearing a woman’s straw hat that he said he’d bought in the Sheraton’s gift shop, with loose pants and shirt and boat shoes. Sporting a full, white and neatly-trimmed beard, and collar-length gray hair he was relaxed but not quite Dude-like.  He sang, played guitar and keyboard, answered questions from the audience, and even danced in the aisles to get loosened up. His performance was great.

Bridges, who has a nice voice and good musical skills, was well supported on guitar and vocals by Chris Pelonis, a member of Bridges' musical group, The Abiders. One too-smart audience member yelled out maybe the group should be called “The Old Timers”. Bridges took that  comment in good spirit as he did other audience participation. He said maybe he should change their name. Very Dude-like.

Bridges sang a number of songs (including “Going Where I Shouldn’t Go”, “Hold On To You”, rocked out “I Use To Be Somebody”,  and crooned “No Place For the Weary Kind”) from “Crazy Heart”, the movie. He performed songs by T Bone Burnett, John Goodwin, who Bridges confided he has known since they both were in fourth grade. The set list also included a Tom Waits song (“Never Let Go of Your Hand”), a Creedence Clearwater Revival song (“Looking Out My Back Door”) and ended the encore with a Bob Dylan song (“The Man in Me”). The audience seemed to appreciate the Dude’s musical taste.

Bridges pleased the audience with several stories, and also good-naturedly answered questions from the audience. He said he probably was smoking Lucky Strikes in “The Last Picture Show” with Cybil Shepherd. He also said he’s smoked loco weed but  was not smoking pot in “The Big Lebowski.” The audience took that with a grain of—you know. But he also said he’s now given up those substances. 

The audience was treated to a couple of Bridges’ ocean-related stories. One, just from this trip to Maui where he went whale watching and was “whale-mugged”, that is, when whales surround a boat. The whales are protected and the boat has to stay put and wait for the whales to move off. Another story dated to a dive with his famous father, Lloyd Bridges. Jeff said he’d dived off the side of the boat, a bit of show off in his water-entry. His father, well known for the TV series. “Sea Hunt”, was experiencing some queasiness from an inner ear issue next entered the water but signaled Jeff to go to the surface. Jeff refused only to discover his dad, the man famous for diving, had been signaling  to surface because  he was “puking” in the water.

Maybe the Dude should be in politics. In addition to good music and a little humor, Bridges brought a level of intelligence, civility and compassion to the evening. Bridges talked about the charity he’s supported for decades: Ending Childhood Hunger. He also said he supports causes that deal with climate change. Bridges said that like a lot of people he’s been intimidated by the enormity of climate change. He said he now realizes that maybe one person can make a difference. He told a story about "Bucky" Buckminster Fuller , who compared an individual to the trimtab, a tiny rudder that turns the bigger rudder on a big ship. Bridges said he was inspired by Bucky’s epitaph “Call me trimtab”.

Jeff Bridges is a lot more than just the actor who played “The Dude” in “The Big Lebowski”. In the hearts of a lot of people he will always be The Dude first. But he's also a great musican, a humanitarian and an Oscar-winning actor who has made numerous roles memorable or even haunting. Think the most evil character he has played, Barney Cousins, a very scary (still-gives me the creeps) killer in “The Vanishing”.  

Jeff Bridges, on the other hand, apparently has not an evil bone in his body. Instead he seems to be following the advice he says his mother, and his wife now give him when he heads off for an acting job, “Have fun and don’t take it so seriously.” Yes, very Dude-like.

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