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David Byrne, Steve Buscemi, Beth Orton Celebrate ‘Stay Awake’

Courtesy of A&M Records


For some music lovers of a certain generation, one single album introduced an entire world of noncommercial music legends, from Tom Waits to the Replacements to Sun Ra: Stay Awake, producer Hal Willner's 1988 reimagining of classic Disney songs. Wednesday night at St. Ann's Warehouse, Willner staged a reinterpretation of Stay Awake with a mostly new crew of performers, all of whom admitted offstage of being terrified of Disney movies while growing up. “When they start turning into donkeys, that freaked me out!” David Byrne reminisced about Pinocchio. “I remember I had to leave the theater for a while at that point. It really freaked me out.” Steve Buscemi agreed. “The donkey thing was terrifying! And the part where they get swallowed by the whale.”

Buscemi apparently channeled his dark memories into the evening's highlight, a Beats-like, slowed-down, menacing, half-rapped duet of “Heigh Ho” from Snow White with Sharon Jones, complete with shoveling noises and miming, that compared favorably to Tom Waits's version on the original album. Much of the fun of the evening was comparing the night's performances to the ones on the record. David Byrne's totally irony-free live version of "When You Wish Upon a Star" was lovelier than Ringo Starr's, for example. Suzanne Vega's "Cruella de Ville" was far sexier than the Replacements'. Sharon Jones turned "The Mickey Mouse Theme" into a deep soul classic, adding grit to Aaron Neville's sweet but lightweight album version. And while James Taylor sang a nice "The Second Star to the Right" (from Peter Pan) on the album, Beth Orton's version made everyone — including the grown men at our table — cry. We hope someone was recording this. —Jada Yuan