I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say, “New Orleans is a magical musical city.” And last night’s show at the Joy Theater will go down in the collective record book as the night Daniel Johnston opened and closed for himself. Winter Circle Productions in association with Preservation Hall Jazz Band brought one of the most beloved musicians of all time to the stage. Daniel Johnston was featured in the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, which claimed, “Daniel Johnston, manic-depressive genius singer/songwriter/artist is revealed in this portrait of madness, creativity and love.” The movie is a painful reminder of the fine line between madness and genius and how they seem to overlap. The biggest and most upsetting part being that the madman knows he’s mad but can’t do anything about it. The documentary sheds light on subjects that are raw and emotional. If you ever watch it, be prepared for an emotional journey.
As the end credits finished rolling, the screen immediately went up, and Daniel Johnston and the Preservation All-Stars started playing. The set, albeit disjointed at times, was fantastic and short. I don’t think anyone had any issue with that, and I, like many others, would have been amazed to have seen him do even one song. In all, Daniel was able to make it through six of his songs. The musical break between his “sets” gave him time to collect himself. Daniel's lyric sheets fell to the stage after he finished “True Love Will Find You in the End.” Looking a bit out of sorts, he yelled, "Speeding motorcycle!" and exited the stage and didn’t return.
If ever there was a word that meant beauty and misery all combined into one, this show would be the asterisk for the footnote. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain he has gone through and still is. Preservation Hall has been on a roll of late, with their guest-star performances, but this could be, hands down, one of the most amazing and unforgettable of them all. I spoke to Ben briefly after the show, and you could see the emotional toll the show had taken on him, but he really was amazed at what had just taken place.
You can see my gallery here and take that emotional journey I was talking about. The last few pictures, though accidental, are poignant to say the least.