Westover School - Middlebury, Connecticut
10/28/2008 (updated 10/28/2008)

Of Manner and Morals and Other Lighthearted Matters

Westover School
Middlebury, Connecticut
October 23, 2008

submitted by Joanne Dexter

Though he wasn't exactly in the area, RT nonetheless went out of his way between his recent Rochester and Poughkeepsie shows to come back once more to Westover, the singularly fortunate all girls private high school in Connecticut that has welcomed Richard on three other occasions. As he did once before, back in 2002, RT came to do Thursday morning 'Chapel' for the girls and, again as he did so well six years before, he took the opportunity not just to perform but to get them to think a bit, this time on the subject of morality. "Bar the doors," he joked, having introduced his planned theme. "But don't worry -- I know in this rather Puritanical country there can be ways in which, as young women, morals are often just crammed down your throat, by televangelists and other stern figures, but I'll try to tackle it in a lighter manner, all wrapped up as entertainment. Think of me more as a kindly uncle -- or maybe rather an eccentric uncle. You know, the one who comes for the holidays and ends up setting fire to the christmas tree."

Having thus introduced his general theme, RT segued into his first case study in morality: "This first song presents a sort of an anti-hero, which is in its own way a contradiction. Using an anti-hero is actually calling upon the audience to judge for themselves, to play out the morality of what they hear against their own sense of right and wrong, so it really demands more from an audience, morally speaking." And with that he launched into "I Feel So Good," which went over brilliantly. Only the senior girls in the audience had seen RT play at Westover before, so they knew more or less the level of genius to expect from RT's playing and songwriting -- but the younger girls were clearly just as blown away by this first glimpse of RT's prowess, both as a guitar player [the riffs on the chorus dropped jaws all around the chapel] and as a songwriter.

For the next song, RT presented a more straightforward morality fable, in a song the origins of which date back before English. "The version I'm singing is at least three hundred years old, but there are versions that go back over a thousand years, before the English language itself." And with that he introduced a song familiar from recent "1000 Years" tours, "The False Knight on the Road," about a knight [really the devil himself in disguise] waylaying a schoolboy on his way to school, trying to tempt the youth from his righteous path by setting him a series of riddles -- "You all are familiar with situations like that, where the wrong answer lands you in Hell, yes? It's called Physics class," RT quipped, to much laughter -- but the schoolboy in the song comes up with the right answer each time, finally defeating his tempter and adversary. A quieter song with a haunting melody, this one had the girls hushed, riveted by RT's expressive voice as well as the song's dense symbolism.

Changing pace entirely, RT told the girls he'd written the next song about a famous pop music icon, "but I'm not sure I should tell you which one -- oh, alright, it's Madonna," he admitted in feigned reluctance. "You know, she's often presented as a role model for young women because she's been so successful, but I wonder, is she really? I mean, sure, she's worked really, really hard to become really, really mediocre, overcoming her entire lack of talent as a singer and dancer thanks to her one real talent, which is self promotion. But morally, is she a model in any way?" And he launched into a brand new song, "so new," RT joked, "that I don't really know how it goes myself yet." And he blew through a breezy, blistering song called, I think, "I Want the World [and Everything In It]", which veered just a bit from Madonna's actual life story to characterize her success as based entirely on a quest for ultimate self-fulfillment, with her own desires and needs giving rise entirely to the unlimited, voracious nature of her own ambition. The girls [and faculty too] thoroughly enjoyed this one, laughing throughout while still paying close attention to the frenetic guitar work.