Night fell and Bill Murray and his musical collaborators had a full day of interviews and a surprise pop-up performance at the Carlyle Hotel. (They’ll surprise fans the next day with an impromptu set in Washington Square Park.) They’re still late as they discuss what’s next on the agenda. Clearly, it’s martini time, as Murray and famed cellist Jan Vogler pass cocktails to violinist Mira Wang and pianist Vanessa Perez to begin their final interview of the day. Their camaraderie reflects their time on the road, from trekking between stops in Murray’s motorhome to performing at the historic Odeon of Herodes Atticus near the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, culminating in their new film the concert New Worlds: The Cradle of Civilization.
“It was a real experience to have him come. I felt like that old Shakespearian actor at the turn of the 20th century down there in New Orleans, playing shows for people. ‘What are they saying?’, says Murray rolling stone, slipping into a Southern drawl befitting the subject matter of their tour, which mostly combines American literary classics with classical music. “It just seemed like that, we were bringing something from a different planet, almost.”
Their concert documentary arrived in theaters on Wednesday. The film captures their 2018 performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the final leg of their world tour which included the hallowed stages of Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
It’s heady, sure, but the film isn’t just for classic fans and literature buffs: they deftly weave traditional classical compositions from Bach to Schubert with modern classics, working in Broadway favorites of West Side Story to the songs of Tom Waits and Bruce Hornsby in a deliciously coherent and unexpected way. In the film, Murray jokes with the audience that he might want to go out and get some moussaka instead. “They don’t see this one coming,” he says RS. “Whatever they expect to see, they won’t get what they think they will get.” But it is also part of new worlds‘ beauty.
There’s levity and joy – Murray struts around singing “I Feel Pretty” and has fun during Tom Waits’ whimsical “The Piano Has Been Drinking” – but it’s also an incredibly moving journey through stories of love, loss, regret and longing. During Piazzolla’s “Oblivion”, Murray and Wang dance a tango; Murray’s reading of the extract “With Pascin at the Dome” by Ernest Hemingway A moving party transitions from descriptive scenes and colourful, debauched character studies to a meditation on the human condition and the tragically deceased friend.
Looking at the 2018 concert through the lens of current events gives the material about life and humanity written years ago an even deeper resonance. “Covid is probably the most difficult condition of this generation, this current moment, and if we don’t engage [and] jump on it, the opportunity that this difficulty creates [and] gifts; we will miss it,” Murray said. “We are going to miss a huge growth opportunity.” An example that seems relevant today is Murray’s reading of Billy Collins’ 1990 poem “Forgetfulness”, which humorously explores memory loss but could also have been written about the ongoing pandemic where the sense of time and memory deform like an endless. groundhog day.
The project began as a collaboration between Murray and Vogler, who conceived the idea of merging the two classic disciplines they both revere into the album. new worlds. “We made the record first, then we came out, and like I said, we learned how to play music after that.” the new worldsThe artists and selections are tailor-made for the stage, and naturally the readings come to life in a live set in the film, with the spirited performances of Vogler, Wang and Perez and the synergy between them playing on Murray. He embodies the various characters and scenes, which are palpable and alive through his interpretations, accents, facial expressions and impeccable sense of rhythm.
“He’s a great master of timing through his acting and delivering all of those moments that I think were key to making the show work,” Vogler said.
Murray says the tracks blended together in some cases by means of “just wonderful accidents”, citing the moment when Franz Schubert’s music underpins his selection of James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Deerslayer”. Although the artists never met, they both wrote about the beauty of nature and, as Murray explains in the film, Schubert was reading Cooper on his deathbed. “[It was] Mira’s idea of saying, what if we did both at the same time? And it was such a stupid idea that we tried,” he teases, drawing laughter from his collaborators. “And it played – the rhythm of the words and the music, really, they found each other. And it was much more powerful together than they were individually.
A ride through the California desert inspired Murray’s inclusion of Van Morrison’s ‘When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God’, their first foray into more recent work, which inspired them all to grow into other genres for the project. “It was an unusual year when there had been unlimited rainfall in the desert and what was usually just a dust storm was full of flowers,” says Murray. The song was playing in his car as he came across hundreds of people watching the sunset. “They came to see the flowers and the sunset. And I just saw the reflection of the sun in their glasses. And I thought it was like Dating of the Third Kind…And it’s really like, what’s going on? People see something they don’t understand. They don’t understand why the desert is full of flowers. And I didn’t understand the lyrics to that song, I didn’t understand what he was saying and why he was so passionate, why he was so mad at himself, and why it touched me, why it really upset me.
Murray also suggested Bruce Hornsby and “The Way It Is” from the lineup, which he chose to highlight Perez for his instantly recognizable piano riff. “It’s not easy to play,” he adds. “She can play, but we can’t.”
The show and setlist evolved while they were on the road. By the time they arrived at their last tour stop in Greece, a dress had gone MIA when all of their luggage was lost (“She was wearing my dress,” Murray jokes) and they were sleep deprived due to a bad flight. But the performance came together in one wonderful take, a testament to the artists’ considerable chops. As seen in the film, on the Zoom call, the foursome’s chemistry is on display as they finish each other’s sentences and reminisce about highlights from the road, including bonding time during a Cubs game and at a Rolling Stones concert.
As for a possible sequel to the ambitious new worlds, Murray says they might do another one “for fun”. But maybe we are thinking of something new, something different. If something is already brewing, however, Murray keeps things unexpected, responding with a nod to the Stones.
“I don’t expect to come back here,” he sings. “So take me to the station and put me on the train. I don’t expect to come back here.