Woody Allen and New Orleans Jazz Band end European tour in Athens

This was not the kind of live concert meant to be dissected by voracious music critics. On stage was a man celebrated for his punch lines, his chronic phobias and selective shyness, as well as his signature jokes on life, death, family and shrinks, not to mention complicated relationships. Playing to an almost full house on December 30 – a few empty seats were witnesses to the particularly exorbitant prices, no doubt – Woody Allen and the other members of the New Orleans Jazz Band offered what was more or less expected: one hour and forty-five minutes (including the encores) of solid jazz – and very, very few words from Allen. With the bulk of the city’s glamorous people out of town on their annual quest to usher in the New Year in exotic or snowy hot spots around the globe, last Friday’s social gathering was reduced to a bunch of glitterati, ranging from heavyweight journalists to charity-conscious members of Athenian society whose good-will efforts – via part of the evening’s proceeds – will allow a gifted blind music student to further his education abroad. Did anyone expect the vastness of the Athens Concert Hall’s Friends of Music Hall to prove the ideal place for a seven-member band playing ragtime? Surely a dark, smoky venue with rising levels of alcohol consumption would have been much better suited. But, as Allen himself acknowledges, this show often turns out to be more about seeing, rather than listening. Woody Allen means different things to different people and perhaps some members of last Friday’s audience were left with a sense of void (what about a punchline, cracking a joke?). The question, however, is why Allen is so willing to expose himself on stage, not as the stand-up comedian that he used to be, but as a devoted «amateur» surrounded by seasoned pros, such as Eddy Davis (the band’s director and banjo soloist) and trombone virtuoso Jerry Zigmont, for instance. Has the writer/director/actor finally succeeded in defying his consuming fears? He seems to have gotten over his life-determining never-want-to-leave-New-York-City mantra, for example, having spent several months shooting two consecutive films in London. Could it be that his new family is currently offering him the kind of security that a man needs in order to venture beyond his limits? Playing jazz since his teens, Allen is forever bound to the soul-filling, gorgeous music that has always been an integral part of his film work. And though he must feel more at ease during the band’s regular Monday night appearances at New York’s Michael’s Pub (in the past) and the Carlyle (nowadays), Allen enjoys a special relationship with Europe, whose audiences have always given his movies a strong boost outside the United States. Strange as these concerts may be at times, it seems that through them Allen has found an original way to share a genuine passion with an adoring world public.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.