Har Mar Superstar played his final gig at First Ave. in Minneapolis before he leaves for Ibiza/London for 4 months. I had never seen Sean Tillman perform as Har Mar Superstar, though I did see him twice playing in his other incarnation, Sean Na Na (with albums on Troubleman Unlimited and French Kiss).
If you haven’t caught the Rolling Stone buzz for Har Mar, rest assured that his live act was masterful. And masterfully uproarious. Not too familiar with Har Mar’s two full-length albums (2000′s self-titled release on Kill Rock Stars and 2002′s You Can Feel Me on Warner), I found myself thoroughly enjoying both Har Mar’s performance and his set. A one-man act, Tillman broadcasts fresh (not in the unique sense) beats and soulful melodies through a boombox, while singing I-Wanna-Sex-You-Up lyrics in the closest reproduction of Stevie Wonder’s voice this side of Jamiroquai.
The most characteristic feature of Har Mar’s act is his stripping from his silk Ali-like robe with letters reading “Har Mar” haphazardly stitched on his back down to his tighty-whities — all this with a bod that would make fashion models cringe. I hear that ass-less pants are oftentimes involved in the process. For better or worse, they were not this time. At the First Ave. gig, he was also sporting a sweet rat tail mullet (much akin to this one) and a pencil-thin moustache — perhaps a nod to his shopping center namesake. Har Mar gyrates on the mic stand and slithers erotically on the stage floor while singing to his smooth grooves. He also pulls out an array of well-choreographed boy-band dance moves in beautiful satire of one of the most woeful trends in popular music.
But his rock-star attitude is really at the core of his widely-recognized success on stage. Throughout the gig, he instigates the audience with quips like “Give it up for me, I’m the fucking best!” and, right before his “Power Lunch” (stream video here) in which Har Mar infatuates over the high-powered corporate ladies, “I’ll bed at least 5 of you by the end of the week.” His schtick has even landed him in the can in Oklamhoma.
Sure his is a novelty act. But artier-than-thou critics like Andrew Earles of Magnet Magazine need to check their journalism. Not every rock act exists to push the frontier between rock and art. Earles spews: “This ‘comic-irony dirtbag’ bit isn’t funny or entertaining. Not comic irony, you say? Think again. I know you claim this is ‘for real,’ which is wildly insulting to anyone with ears.” (Is this you, Andrew Scott Earles, having placed a Har Mar song in your Top 10 as a Village Voice critic? Oh, I get it, you were the first one at the scene….)
Earles, whose condescending tone (including calling Tillman an “asshole” in his article) leads me to believe that he’ll come across this post after having Googled his own name, clearly misses the point if he believes that anyone takes seriously Tillman’s statements that his stage act or his albums are not neck-deep in mockery. We’re not dealing with the humor of John Irving or Voltaire — Tillman himself would agree that his self-deprecating strip-tease act and one-man boy band machismo constitute more base than intellectual humor. The satire is nonetheless effective and the “butts” of his jokes are worthy of the criticism. If the pic to the left doesn’t convince you that Har Mar’s set is worth an open mind, then check out his press and concert pics or buy a Har Mar thong. You can also listen to the entire You Can Feel Me Now album here and download 4 tracks if you scroll down on his homepage. As Betty Clarke of the Guardian writes: Tongue-in-cheek and seriously brilliant.”