At his Abravanel Hall show Saturday night, Anthony Bourdain proved even bad boys can be boring.---
You'll find no bigger fan of Bourdain's books or his TV show, No Reservations, than me, but the Bourdain live experience offered little in the way of commentary or comedy that doesn't come better in those mediums. It was a bummer, because there's little doubt Bourdain is the rock star of the Foodie Nation right now, and his nearly full room of gastronomic groupies was ready to adore the man no matter what he did with his show.
The truth is, he didn't do much that any veterans of his past work hadn't already seen. Bourdain spent much of the show's beginning minutes running down his thoughts on various cooking shows and celebrity chefs--familiar ground for any fans of his, and a pretty dull recitation of those familiar opinions. Even if I give Bourdain the benefit of thinking he probably wanted to get all that material out of the way--lest his Q&A session simply consist of a bunch of "What do you think of Bobby Flay?"-type questions--it was still a rather uninviting start to the evening's proceedings.
Not that his fans seemed to mind a bit--they laughed heartily, called out responses when Bourdain asked hypothetical questions and showered him with adoration when that lengthy Q&A session arrived to end the show. And Bourdain is obviously a likeable fellow with a gift for words, but despite my pretty sweet seats, his microphone didn't seem to project his voice loudly enough during long stretches of the show. The laughter, whether deserved or not, drowned out much of what Bourdain had to say through the show.
The best moments of the show came when Bourdain addressed how his young daughter changed his thinking on the necessity of eating organic, and he encouraged a revolution of the Foodies against "The Clown, The King and The Colonel." And to fight those evil entities, Bourdain suggested, the supporters of good food need to teach the children about them, "by whatever means necessary." Even if that means whispering to his daughter than Ronald McDonald kidnaps children, he joked.
At other points, he bemoaned the American beef industries use of ammonia, avowing that it's his right as an American to get a burger free of cleaning products (and cooked medium-rare if he wants it). And he encouraged travelers to get out of their comfort zone when they travel, to eat as locals do and do their best not to offend the locals. Again, it was good advice, but it was advice delivered in a more entertaining way via his TV show every episode.
In the end, the best point I took away from Bourdain's live appearance was his attitude toward cooking, versus his attitude about eating. "Cooking is about control," Bourdain said, while "eating is about submission."
The crowd Saturday was certainly full of both cooking control freaks and those who love to submit to their control, and both loved Bourdain. Too bad most of his material was more like reheated leftovers than a inspired new creation.