This was mostly a lovely evening with a beloved performer who seems serenely comfortable in her own skin, even though Linda Ronstadt ended her memoir night with the simple reminder she has Parkinson’s and will never sing again. It wasn’t melodramatic and she seems reconciled to telling stories. And then the spell was broken by a series of egotistical audience members called forth to a Q&A session spouting nothing more than their own irrelevant reflections on themselves. Ronstadt’s onstage companion was so bewildered by the blather that he suggested the evening might go better “if there were any actual questions.”
Ronstadt came onstage with a Powerpoint and an interesting disclaimer. “No real artist ‘reinvents themselves.’ That’s just what people in the media say,” she said. It was an apt explanation from a performer who began her career in the 1960s as a folk-rocker with the Stone Poneys, and then moved into the vanguard of the Los Angeles country rock world of the Troubadour. Her backing band was the Eagles, whom she helped form and then set free when they found their own jam. Later she embraced country, light opera, jazz standards and Mexican music, which was really her musical origin. “You just find new things to explore,” she explained, amply illustrating that fact with clips and recorded songs.
In monotone (and never monotonous) voice, Ronstadt produced a harvest of memories. The time the Stone Poneys were late for a record company meeting because their car broke down in a gas station that refused to repair it for the penniless gang while the hit “Different Drums” played on the garage radio. The difference between arenas (horrible) and stages with curtains (heaven). A tiny dish about Jerry Brown. She even managed to squeeze in how much she envied Santa Barbarans, calling us “lucky ducks,” as she has before in print.
But the blessed quackers didn’t repay her in kind. Instead of relevant inquiries, other people decided to share their life stories, no matter how dull. One man told Ronstadt her music bridged a rift between him and his mother. That one was nice, but narcissism mucked up the rest of it. Too bad Ronstadt’s vibrant reflections prompted so much self-advertising and drivel.