Stew and the Negro Problem, Chicago song cycle

Stew, the Tony Award-winning creator and star of Broadway’s rock musical "Passing Strange" and his band perform a new song cycle inspired by Stew and collaborator Heidi Rodewald’s experiences in and perspectives about Chicago. The work was developed during a summer MCA Stage residency and is being performed along with songs from their 2012 album, Making It. Stew’s concerts limbo between rock show and theater and the musical influences range from funk, baroque ‘60s pop, lounge music, ‘80s synth pop, classic Tin Pan Alley, and psychedelic rock.

You can do that.

Stew: The Chicago project that we’re trying to do here is kind of a continuing in the series of shows that Heidi and I do. We call them "live song cycles." We write songs about cities that we basically know very little about.

Now you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. [singing]

Stew: The idea is, we take on the expert mantel, we’re expert observers. We don’t claim to be able to tell anything about a city in a documentary fashion, it’s more impressionistic. So what you’ll get from our show will be the way Chicago looks through our eyes.

For 10,000 days of one-night stands, and oh, by the way can . . . [singing]

Heidi Rodewald: We did a show on Brooklyn, that’s what started this all happening; we did a show at BAM.

Is that alright? [singing]

HR: It was so great to live there and be putting real thought into it and having these songs about it.

We’re gonna do a little play since you paid for that. [singing]

Stew: My whole life has being trying to figure out issues through art –

. . . where this band tells you where it’s at . . . [singing]

Stew: – through song, through visuals.

So just follow along, just follow along . . . [singing]

Stew: I was never the guy to go and pick up the gigantic history book, but I will listen to some music, and read some poetry. If you want to teach me about a city, I go I read what the poets wrote about it and listen to the songwriters, that’s just how I do it – and the filmmakers.

Just ask the song. Just ask the song. [singing]

Stew: Artists to me are my tribe, so I go to my tribal members to find out the truth of a place from them and in turn, when I’m trying to figure a place out, I try to figure it out through trying to create art about it.

Now since it’s my job, ah’ma set the scene . . . [singing]

Stew: That’s how I understand things. I work things out in song.

. . . with all the mod cons, the manicured lawns, some savings bonds, a boy and his mom. [singing]

HR: We’re going to be doing this same kind of project with Iowa City, with DC, and Philadelphia, so we’re lining ‘em up. This is our thing now.

A colored paradise where the palm trees sway. [singing]