The big weekend in Amsterdam is over: it’s Monday and wash day and recovery day. Baby Dee is on her way home.
Bimhuis was full for Dee’s show last Saturday, with a few people even sitting in the aisles. The name Bimhuis is apparently associated with legendary jazz musicians in Amsterdam, but the original venue is no longer. Bim is now housed in a box sticking out the side of a theater-arts complex reached by pedestrian ramps behind the train station.
The stage was big and arched out into the audience. There was a grand piano and a concert harp on it. Before the show, a stagehand laid a sheet of paper at each musician’s place. Good—Dee had a set list. She and the band played a radio show in the afternoon, and Dee had been worried that it would deplete them for the evening. She entered alone (as I remember) and went straight to the harp, doing one of her early songs, the one about asking the bird why it sings (“The Robin’s Tiny Throat”?). The musicians joined her gradually: John Contreras, the cellist; Alex Nielson, a ginger-haired Scot; and Joe Carvel, a bassist. I would not have thought that percussion would lend itself to Dee’s music, but Alex does some special little martial thing on “Early King,” and he has a feathery touch with the cymbals that is very effective. Plus he’s fun to watch.
This was the best-choreographed of any of Dee’s shows that I have been to. Often, with a harp, a piano, and backup musicians, it can be crowded onstage, and clumsy for Dee to move between the piano and the harp, but she swanned across the stage (insofar as one CAN swan in flipflops), soaking up the applause. She did a combination of early songs from her first album (“He’s Gonna Kill Me When I Get Home” and “So Bad” ended the first set), some of the great, driving songs from “Safe Inside the Day" (“Teeth Are the Only Bones That Show,” “The Dance of Diminishing Possibilities”), and love songs from the new album that will be out this winter (“A Book of Songs for Anne Marie”). Dee also did “April Day,” a beautiful song that makes people in the audience sigh with pleasure. (She doesn’t do it often.) She was in good voice.
Between songs, Dee gave us a Dutch lesson. Her favorite expression in Dutch is “ik ook,” which means “me too.” She also taught us “lekker” (“delicious”). A person can get pretty far in Holland with lekker and ik ook.
On my way to the bar at the break, I was accosted by Alexander and Andre, a Dutch artist-manager duo, dressed to the nines (or even to the twelves), who been sent as emissaries by my friend Ella Arps (she couldn’t make it). Alex and Andre bore gifts for Dee and me. I opened mine: it was an exquisite print, from a series called “Aladdin’s Dreams,” of a well-hung contortionist. (Dee will have gotten something in the same vein.) There were some other people there I knew, too, who congratulated me on my wisteria.
Dee did “Big Titty Bee Girl (From Dino Town)” and, thrill of thrills, as an encore she did “Pisspot,” the song she wrote with my mother. You can never tell, with Dee, whether she will leave the audience laughing or crying. I was glad that this night she left us happy.
When the show was over, the stagehands drew back a curtain at the back to reveal the port of Amsterdam.