WHAT THE PRESS IS SAYING:
“Berry brings Moon’s artistry to life.”
— Robert Hurwitt,
San Francisco Chronicle
Culture Spot LA
April 16, 2018 | By Henry Schlinger | Category: Entertainment and Events, Theater and Dance
On April 15, Mick Berry ended the one-month run at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood of his one-man show, “Keith Moon: The Real Me.” The show resumes for three nights only at the Dragon Theatre in Redwood City on April 20.
Keith Moon, like so many rock stars, was a light that burned brightly and briefly, though not as briefly as some (e.g., Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison). But Berry, with the help of Moon’s daughter and son-in-law, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, depicts not only the great drummer for The Who, but the tortured, tragic person that Moon was.
The show, written and performed by Berry, with some expert help from Director Nancy Carlin, Music Director Frank Simes and the musicians who covered the songs in the recordings Berry played to, depicts Moon’s struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, his lack of confidence as a drummer (At one point he says “I am the best Keith Moon-style drummer”) and his failure in personal relationships. All of this occurs in the context of some of the great Who songs written by Townshend. Berry picked songs that fit well with the narrative, such as “The Real Me,” “Who Are You” (to which Berry as Moon screams while playing the song, “Stop asking that question!”), “I Can’t Explain” and, of course, “My Generation,” with its famous line, “I hope I die before I get old.”
In telling Moon’s story, Berry moves seamlessly between a monologue, which often is more like a dialogue with the audience, and his outstanding drumming to his band’s recordings (without drums) of selected Who songs. Sound management was a balancing act to level Mick’s vocals, the toms, the snare, the cymbals and the music of The Who, according to Music Producer Eugene Strawhun. And since live drums and cymbals in such an intimate setting would have blasted the audience’s eardrums, the drums used “silent” mesh heads with digital triggers to reproduce live drumming sound, which enabled control of sound and volume, and dampening tape was added to the cymbals.
Berry has all the drum chops, which is not an easy feat because as he (Moon) notes, he doesn’t just play beats. In fact, there was one humorous point in the show where Berry (as Moon) went through five or six Rolling Stones songs (Satisfaction, Brown Sugar, Jumpin’ Jack Flash…) playing the exact same beat and drum part. It was a comment on the difference between his style of drumming and that of Stones drummer Charlie Watts. Of course, anyone familiar with Moon’s playing knows he was a wild man behind the drums. It turns out that he was a wild man in his life too, living the equivalent of one full, but sad life in only 31 years. Berry convincingly conveys that the only time Moon seemed free of his demons was when he was playing. Other than that, he was a wreck.
Not only does Berry play the drums like Moon, he also talks during some of the songs, trying to convey what Moon might have felt while playing the song. In a couple of instances, Berry actually illustrates each drum part (e.g., fill before the second verse) in a song for the audience. When he is talking to the audience, either pictures or lyrics are projected on the screen behind him. But when he is playing, the audience gets an overhead view of Berry. Considering that he really played like Moon, it’s amazing that Berry rarely seemed out of breath, and it’s hard to imagine that he had just performed the show the night before, much less three days a week for almost a month.
In “Keith Moon: The Real Me,” Berry becomes both Keith Moons: the rock-star drummer and the tragic figure. Berry’s performance — as a writer, actor and drummer — is a tour de force. If you’re a fan of The Who and of Keith Moon and you live anywhere near Redwood City, this is a not-to-be-missed show!
—Hank Schlinger, Culture Spot LA
“…Berry really becomes Moon…”
— Tony Lacey-Thompson,
“…have I got a show for you.”
— Chad Jones,
“Entertaining and Sympathetic”
— Mandy Moon
“Berry is a great drummer, and
he nails Moon’s multi-layered,
off beat style...”
— Ben Marks, KQED
08-14-2017 | STEVE MURRAY — For All Events
Keith Moon: The Real Me. Written and Starring Mick Berry. Directed by Nancy Carlin. Musical Director Frank Simes. Songs by Pete Townsend. Marin Theatre Company in Association with Z Space.
Mick Berry, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Keith Moon, takes to his drum kit and tears into The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly”. It takes an excellent drummer to tackle the licks of one of rock’s greatest icon’s and Berry is more than capable at re-creating Moon’s unorthodox style. A stellar cover band provides The Who’s backtracks as Berry explains the thought process around his unique percussion style. With multiple angle camera shots projecting onto an overhead screen, the audience becomes a part of Moon’s world. But Keith Moon: The Real Me is much more than just a concert recreation; Berry channels Moon’s persona chronicling his rise to stardom, descent into multiple addictions and untimely demise. It’s a tour de force performance that had the audience on its feet on multiple occasions.
We meet Moon as an 18 year old; dissatisfied with the boredom of working class life and hell-bent on making a go of drumming as an escape mechanism. Following the advice of his mentor, drummer Carlo Hill, Moon joined up with Daltry, Townsend and Entwhistle and The Who were formed. Their chart smashing single “Can’t Explain” began their meteoric rise to rock n roll legends. Money, women, sex and drugs quickly followed. Moon talks about his star pals (Oliver Reed and Mountain’s Leslie West), providing funny anecdotes that helped cement Moon’s reputation as a prankster. He never “thought about mortality, immortality maybe”; and this attitude led to a career full of drug excess, alcoholism, domestic abuse and overdoses. With Moon there were no rules; his dreams and nightmares were included in the tableau that played out.
Berry is incandescent as Moon, creating a complex character that is both repugnant and charming. With the rock star lifestyle there are excesses galore. We see a Moon that is trapped by the public need for his lunacy; the womanizing, the drugs, the smashing hotel rooms, the horrible car accident that claimed the life of his chauffeur and friend. Throughout the show is a common thread of Moon challenging the audience to be authentic, highlighted by a bang up version of The Who’s “Who Are You”.
The musicology research is spot on, Berry’s acting as close as can be to a real historical figure. It’s great to hear classic Who material like “My Generation”, “I Can See for Miles”, “Bargain” and “Don’t Get Fooled Again”. The first person anecdotes present a complicated and tragic individual. Kudos to the production team who’ve combined to create a multimedia experience full of energy and concert-like excitement: musical director Frank Simes (who appropriately is the MD for The Who), Brendon West for sound and video design, Anthony Fusco’s dialogue coaching, director Nancy Carlin and the amazing music production teams.
Keith Moon: The Real Me is not just for rock enthusiasts and Who fans. It’s a well-crafted dramatic biography that anyone who follows pop culture can enjoy. We create our icons, vicariously living through their exploits, eventually assisting in some of their destructions. Keith Moon was another sad casualty of the fame he sought and the demons that are part of the package.
Performances run through September 10th, 201
— Geoffrey Grier,
SF Recovery Theater
“THIS is art. THIS is talent. THIS
is musical history and theatrical
genius in one package!”
— Loretta Janca
SF Bay Area Director/Actor
“Berry is a powerful, skilled
drummer, and recreates (with
almost perfect accuracy) Moon's
— Patrick Thomas
MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018 — OPERAVILLE
Moon the Loon
Keith Moon: The Real Me
monodrama by Mick Berry
Frankly, the whole “insane genius” thing pisses me off. History holds far too many great sane artists to support this idea that lunacy somehow opens the gates to creativity. That said, I can see how mentally ill artists make better stories, and therefore get better “press” when it comes to furthering their legacies.
Keith Moon, the addiction-crippled, mentally unbalanced drummer for The Who, certainly fits the bill, especially in the late-‘60s/early-‘70s Golden Age of rock, when destructive energy matched up with an unstable world to create nihilistic music.
Mick Berry’s wildly energetic one-man biodrama wrestles with this myth in a couple of ways. One, our host, Moon the Loon himself, pulls no punches, blaming himself for courting insanity, at the cost of his family and (in one truly horrific chapter) the life of his driver. Two, Berry’s performance actually addresses the music, the true reason for Moon’s genius, and the manic art of playing drums.
I’ll admit a certain bias. As a semi-pro drummer and singer, I demand a certain level of technical know-how when it comes to my musical novels, and find it infuriating that most music-based stories (Ann Patchett’s supposed opera novel Bel Canto, and just about every article ever published in The Rolling Stone) are about image and nothing else.
The way Berry addresses this problem is to play an impressively large drum kit to several Who songs during his performance. This is difficult enough (a recording has none of the give-and-take of a live band), but he also continues to talk during the songs, which, considering Moon’s highly involved style of play, is a horribly difficult thing to do.
What we learn about Moon’s approach is deliciously, geekily satisfying. Founded in lessons from rock drummer Carlo Little (who once turned down a gig from an unknown band called The Rolling Stones), Moon learned to depend on a heavy bass beat, freeing himself from the standard 2-and-4 snare backbeat and allowing the production of cascading fills on toms and cymbals, riffing back and forth with Pete Townshend in an almost jazz sensibility. After seeing this show, you’ll better understand how Moon’s thundering, ever-talking presence led to the sense that The Who was simply bigger and louder than all the other bands.
The most impressive passage comes near the end of the evening, as Berry narrates what goes through a drummer’s mind during a song, in this case “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Having been on that throne, I can tell you it really rings true. By performance time, a drummer has worked out all the technical stuff and goes about “feeling” the song in a much more visceral fashion. Berry leads us through the sections with phrases like “lay out,” “build the tension,” “lead into the second verse,” “Oh God, I’m playing the same damn beat over and over, I’ve run out of ideas. No! How about this?”
The speaking side of Berry’s show provides quite a few entertaining tidbits about the band: the guitar smashing, groupies, booze, pills – how they made Tommy all about pinball mostly to make sure it got a good review from London’s most powerful rock critic, who was really into pinball. And some of the elaborate jokes Moon plays on strangers are worthy of Candid Camera’s best. But it’s this incredibly demanding combination of simultaneous acting and drumming that makes The Real Me such a treat, especially if you’re a fan of The Who.
Through June 25, 3Below Theaters, 288 S. Second Street, San Jose, 408/404-7711, 3belowtheaters.com.
Michael J. Vaughn is the author of twenty novels, including the rock novel Slow Children, and the drummer for San Francisco’s Exit Wonderland.
POSTED BY MICHAEL J. VAUGHN AT 1:52 PM
Review by Patrick Thomas — Talkin’ Broadway
Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Keith Moon is arguably the greatest rock drummer ever. His loud, passionate playing and complex fills have been the inspiration for generations of drummers who have come after. Moon is also the model of the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" bad boy, where the act includes trashing hotel rooms, throwing televisions in swimming pools, partying with groupies, and ingesting mass quantities of pills and liquor. Except, for Moon, it wasn't an act, it was his life. In the world premiere (of an updated version) of a one-man show, Keith Moon: The Real Me Bay Area actor/drummer/performer Mick Berry takes us inside the mind of Moon to reveal the insanity (and artistry) of the man known as "Moon the Loon."
Produced by Z Space, but playing at Marin Theatre Company's black box Lieberman Theatre, Keith Moon: The Real Me takes the audience on a precarious journey that is the highwire act of rock and roll stardom. As Berry (as Moon) puts it early in the show, being a rock and roll star is a bit like playing "reverse Russian roulette." Instead of one bullet and five empty chambers, it's five bullets and one chamber filled with a bouquet of roses.
But getting to the bouquet? That's the challenge, but it's one that Moon apparently embraced with every fiber of his being. "If you can't go inside yourself to destroy yourself, you'll never make it," he says. Destroy himself Moon does, dying from an overdose of a medication prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol he believed he needed to play with his signature abandon. (Moon spent a large portion of his adult life under the influence of champagne and brandy—or any other intoxicant he could lay his hands on.)
To tell the story of Moon's madness/genius, Berry takes his audience on a journey through the music made with his bandmates in The Who (if you didn't already know that Keith Moon was The Who's drummer, this show probably isn't for you!), spending a large percentage of the show at a massive (nine drums, including two bass drums and six cymbals) kit. Berry is a powerful, skilled drummer, and recreates (with almost perfect accuracy) Moon's brilliant drumming on hits like "Baba O'Riley," "My Generation," and "Won't Get Fooled Again." Though a bit tight at the top of the show at the performance I attended, by the time he got to "I Can See for Miles," Berry's playing brought the crowd at the intimate Lieberman Theatre to its feet in recognition of his thrilling, intense rhythmic patterns.
Thanks to the placement of cameras in and around and above the kit, the audience is able to watch every aspect of his playing from multiple angles on a projection screen upstage. Two other screens display a variety of historical images of Moon, The Who, and various records and album art.
Between songs (all of which were rerecorded covers by highly skilled musicians and a Roger Daltrey soundalike), Berry as Moon relates a touching, if ultimately tragic story of a man obsessed with being the greatest rock drummer—while simultaneously sabotaging his efforts with his antics and addictions. Berry touches on all the clichés (which in Moon's case happen to be true) of smashed televisions and hotel toilets destroyed by cherry bombs, M-80s, and even sticks of dynamite. He also includes anecdotes of a more humorous nature, including some of Moon's wackier escapades with best friend (and fellow alcoholic and hellraiser) Oliver Reed.
Berry returns several times to the metaphor of reverse Russian roulette. It's an apt one, as Moon's life seemed to consist of one ex/implosion after another—passing out on stage during concerts, breaking his wife's nose (three times), drunken driving with tragic consequences, and more—tempered by the bouquet of stardom and artistic genius that was The Who's music. "All my dreams come true," this Keith Moon states with a tragic wistfulness, "including the nightmares."