Words by Bill San Antonio
Who, exactly, gets tickets to see Jeff Bridges in concert on a Friday night at the Paramount in Huntington? Parents. My parents. Your parents. Soccer moms. Weekend warriors. Empty nesters. Fantasy football team managers. Parents of every shape and color and size and creed, in all their overpriced khaki-wearing, Blue Point-swilling glory.
This was not my expectation.
Though Bridges’ heartland flavor is branded after his Academy Award-winning role as a country singer in the 2009 film Crazy Heart, his band is called the Abiders – a nod to Bridges’ most iconic character, Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, and his equally-as-iconic tagline, “The Dude abides.” And Lebowski Fest, the two-day celebration of the character and all things The Big Lebowski, was just held last weekend in New York City. Surely, the leftover Lebowski crowd would have made it to Long Island. Those people love Bridges. Not your parents, man. Could they possibly have enjoyed The Big Lebowski – with its gags about rugs and bowling and shomer Shabbos – as much as your stoner college roommate? Of course not.
Yet here sit Mom and Dad, ever so quietly, while Bridges’ opener, his daughter Jessie, strums an acoustic guitar under a single spotlight at The Paramount. Jessie is definitely her father’s daughter, sharing his genuine affability and hippie sensibilities. Her material exudes positivity, with themes ranging from confidence to love to achieving happiness. In between songs, Jessie smiles a lot and thanks the crowd for listening to her play, urging them to visit her at her merch table and maybe buy one of the tour t-shirts she made herself.
When Jessie leaves the stage, I see it, shining in the darkness on the other side of the venue – a Viking helmet. You’d recognize that Viking helmet anywhere; it’s the same one Julianne Moore wore during the psychedelic dance number in Lebowski set to Kenny Rogers’ “Just Dropped in (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Moments later, a man passes me at the bar dressed in a purple bowling shirt and hairnet in what is obviously a tribute to John Tuturro’s brief-but-memorable scene as Lebowski’s arch nemesis, The Jesus. But the kicker hit a few minutes after that, when two giggling bros order – that’s right – White Russians, The Dude’s drink of choice.
They’re here, and at just the right time.
Around 9 p.m., Bridges takes the stage dressed in a navy blue western shirt, light jeans and boots. He puts a guitar strap around his neck and marvels at how beautiful The Paramount is and how nice your parents look tonight. Bridges dedicates the show to the late Robin Williams, with whom he co-starred in the 1991 film The Fisher King. In his cool California drawl, Bridges and the Abiders play cuts from Crazy Heart, his 2011 self-titled debut and various covers. He is every bit the charismatic charmer he appears to be in interviews, naturally The Dude at all times.
Between songs, Bridges peppers the crowd with stories about a song’s production history or actors and producers he knows, films he’s worked on and charities and causes for which he crusades. His words are sometimes incomprehensible, but that’s fine. Mom and Dad and your stoner college roommate eat it up, screaming out “Dude!” at his most philosophical moments. One of the stories includes a producer named “John Goodwin,” which is greeted by cheers having been mistaken for Goodman. “No, we’re not talking about Walter, man,” Bridges says, and the crowd roars with laughter.
This goes on for an hour and a half before Bridges says, “It’s been great playing for you guys, man,” and the band gets into one more number before calling it a night. Jessie later returns for a heartfelt father-daughter encore and The Dude hits the road again, lighting up roaches and changing the dial if the Eagles come on the radio, just trying to get his rug back, man.
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