The capacity to move an audience while also making them laugh and think is a rare talent in popular music, but Randy Newman has it in spades, delivering eccentric odes with the economy and acuity of expression of the original Tin Pan Alley composers. Pixar are lucky to have him.
His touchy-feely Toy Story theme You’ve Got a Friend in Me took its place in this wide-ranging romp around his back catalogue, from his non-PC savaging of Rednecks and Short People to the rollicking You Can Leave Your Hat On and sheer joy of Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear.
Alone at the piano, he captivated the crowd and expertly managed the radical shifts in tone. He was eloquently caustic about racial stereotyping on Yellow Man. Right on cue, the lighting engineer bathed the stage in a mustardy hue. “Now I look like I’ve got hepatitis,” he quipped.
For all the drollery, he could also still the room with poignant confessionals such as I’ll Never Get Over Losing You and the touching I Miss You, famously written for his first wife – when he was already married to his second spouse.
There was an opportunity to join in on I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It), his close-to-the-bone condemnation of artists who protract their careers despite increasing obsolescence. No fear of Newman losing his touch. A new laugh-out-loud lampooning paean to Putin demonstrated that he remains a man of true wit.