In case you were wondering, as we were during this saddest of music weeks: Yes, Tom Petty did pass our way here before.
But only once.
The waiting was the hardest part: His B-N debut came more than a decade into his post-1976 tenure as a bonafide rock star.
That show was on Feb. 16, 1990, in ISU's Redbird Arena, keyed to the peak success of his "Full Moon Fever" solo album, which, at the time, was perched at No. 8 on Billboard's album charts, driven by its hit single, "Free Fallin'," which peaked at No. 7.
Opening the show: a new performer in his big breakout year, Lenny Kravitz (it would be another eight years before Kravitz got to headline his own ISU show, in Braden Auditorium, circa October 1998).
Though "Full Moon Fever" was technically a solo album — continuing Petty's association with fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame) — the concert was a full band affair, with all Heartbreakers in tow.
Adding to the buzz: The ISU concert was just five days before the Grammys, where both album and single (in the male rock vocal category) were contenders. Neither won. (Who did? Answers at column's end.)
In a school year (1989-90) where some heavy hitters were big money-losers for Redbird Arena (Diana Ross, $26,748 in the red; the Oak Ridge Boys, losing $16,722; Gloria Estefan, $1,863 away from profit), Petty's show was one of the big earners, coming out $12,500 ahead.
Petty's last pass through was just a handful of months ago, headlining May 10 at the U of I State Farm Center in Champaign. The spring prior, he was at the Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe with Mudcrutch, his re-formed first band.
The reviews are in: Now a month into its run at at Chicago's Stage 773 theater, "The Civility of Albert Cashier" has gotten a generally positive shake from the press.
Though admitting that "the show does not yet have a fully workable book ... nor a smooth visual or aural trajectory," the Chicago Tribune said it still stands as "a fascinating new musical ... (that) makes the point that the history of transgender members of the military not leaving their comrades behind, and thus earning their lifelong gratitude and friendship, extends as far back as the Civil War."
The Chicago Reader's reviewer also had problems with the overall structure, but noted that "there are some undeniably affecting bluegrass and folk-infused moments here — especially between Dani Shay as young Cashier and Billy Rude as a smitten battle buddy."
"Make no mistake: This is a gorgeous, noteworthy and very important piece of theater that begs to be experienced," praised the Chicago Theater Review.
Closer to home, Nancy Haag, village clerk of Saunemin (Cashier's post-Civil War residence for many years), said that "this musical is very dear to our hearts as Albert DJ Cashier was/is a historical part of our little village. The cast did a great job ... the music was fantastic ... excellent performances."
The McLean County Museum of History's Bill Kemp, who has presented talks on Cashier around the area, admits that "I don’t pretend to know much about theater, but I found 'The Civility of Albert Cashier' to be quite affecting, all things considered.
"Several of the actors, including Delia Kropp as 'Old Albert,' were quite strong. Joe Stevens' Americana music provided an indispensable element to the production. Obviously, since we know so little about Cashier’s inner life and motivations, it's understandable that liberties were taken with his story.
"That said, I think the creators, especially Jay Paul Deratany, remained true to the Cashier story and what he meant to folks more than a century ago when he was still alive, and what he means to us today."
Performances continue through Oct. 21.
The week in arts
- U choose 1, or both: In what seems to be a first, at least during the school year season, ISU is opening two full-blown productions back-to-back in Westhoff Theatre this week: Ellen McLaughlin's adaptation of Sophocles' decidedly tragic "Oedipus," at 7:30 p.m. Friday, followed by Shakespeare's tragedy-free "All's Well That Ends Well," at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Performances continue in rotating repertory fashion thereafter, through Oct. 28.
- Vaudeville rides again: Shades of B-N's rich vaudevillian past ... the Normal Theater has debuted a new free Monday night series designed to bring the live entertainment tradition of yore singing and dancing into the 21st century. Dubbed Vaudeville Monday, the showcase is a successor to the previous season's alternating Monday night offerings, Midwest Songwriter Sessions and Normal Humor Comedy Hour. Vaudeville Monday combines the best of both worlds into one showcase, with room for plenty more (dance, magic, theater, film, demonstrations and "anything else you can imagine"). Next session, 7 p.m. Monday, and every other Monday thereafter.
- School days: Speaking of free things at the Normal Theater, don't forget Week 3 of this fall's 6-Week Film School, "From Alice to Silence: The Scorsese Style," exploring Martin Scorsese's canon. At 7 p.m. Wednesday: "The Last Temptation of Christ."
And the Grammy goes to ... : (Bonnie Raitt's "Nick of Time" won the 1989 Grammy for Best Album; Don Henley's "End of the Innocence" was named Best Male Rock Vocal.)