Are you new to that instrument?
Oh, God, yes [laughs]. I suck at it, basically. The chord progressions are completely different than they are on a guitar, so it’s not something I can play without thinking. But I have to constantly challenge myself. It’s a challenge for my every night, because a G on a ukulele doesn’t look like a G on a guitar. It’s a little tricky. Gotta pay attention.
Tell me how you get in shape for a tour. You’re doing that show over 80 times in the coming months. That’s a lot to prepare for solely on a physical basis.
Yeah. This is true, although I have to say I haven’t had as much time to train and prepare myself physically for this show as I have in the past with other shows. That’s just because I have four kids, and they take up a lot of time. So I have to choose between working out and spending time with them, and then also putting my show together. I have to find the balance of training enough so that I’m not winded and out of breath when I’m onstage, but also not wearing myself out, and also seeing my kids. The list goes on and on.
Do you get something creatively out of doing a live show that you don’t get out of making movies or recording an album?
Well, there’s nothing like a live show, obviously. Living on the edge, being out, never knowing what’s going to happen, it’s a dangerous place to be. You make mistakes, you’ve got to with those mistakes. You know, each audience is different. I love when the audience is alive and plays with me, like it was in Brooklyn. People get my sense of humor and I can riff off of them, both musically and just conversationally.
When you do the same show every night, you have to build up your energy and get ready to be this life force and take the stadium or sports arena by storm. It’s a lot of work. And then coming down afterward is a lot of work, so there’s nothing like it.
For me, when you’re onstage, there’s no cheating. There’s just no cheating. When you’re in the studio you can do another take, you can fix things, you can re-tune your vocals. When you’re making a film you can go into the edit suite, you can fix things in post-production. I mean, it’s not live. A concert is just a whole different world.
Do you see yourself still doing tours in 10 or 15 years?
I don’t even think that far in advance, but if I did travel around and perform and connect to audiences, I’m sure it would look and feel different than, say, the extravagant sort of musicals that I put on right now.
Do you think you could enjoy a more stripped-down show that’s just you and a small band, minus all the production?
I quite like the idea of just sitting on a stool with a bottle of wine, a guitar and working my stand-up comedy into the whole scenario. I like talking to audiences, telling stories. I think I could make an interesting show, to tell you the truth. I quite like the idea of doing something simple.
This is your sixth tour of the 2000s. Part of the challenge must be finding ways to top yourself since you’ve done so many different things.
I don’t think of it as topping myself. It’s like making a film, and then another film. You don’t have to top yourself. It’s just a different story I have to yell. I work with a lot of filmmakers and costume designers and choreographers and dancers, so it’s always going to be different.
This crew of dancers was pretty amazing. It seemed like they were capable of anything.
Yeah, they’re wonderful, super talented and unique. I always tell my dancers that they’re actors, they’re not dancers, and so much is going to be expected of them. I always say the word “intention.” I don’t just like waving my arm around for the sake of waving an arm around. Why are you doing this? What are you trying to say? So I think that’s what makes my shows different.
It’s a funny coincidence that the Pope and you are hitting cities just days apart this week.
[Laughs] It’s hilarious, yes. I’m hoping that we run into each other.
You talked about him a lot at the show. Are you a fan?
I have a long relationship with the Pope, with the Vatican, with the Catholic Church, with my excommunication. Anyway, you know, I was raised a Catholic, and no matter what spiritual path I might go down, I always feel some kind of inexplicable connection with Catholicism. It kind of shows up in all of my work, as you may have noticed.
Are you happy with the direction this Pope is taking the church?
I’ll state the obvious and say that he seems like he’s a much more open-minded individual, who seems to be moving outside of the dogma of the Catholic Church that has been set in stone since the days of Constantine. So I think it’s good.
It’s good to look out into the big, wide world and see that we have changed, and at the end of the day the message of Jesus is to love your neighbor as yourself, and so that means not judging. And to do that, you have to be more open-minded and accepting of people who have lifestyles that you perceive as unconventional. So I think it’s good, yeah. And I also believe that he’s the kind of Pope you could sit down and have a cup of tea with, and/or that you could make a joke about something and he would laugh about it.
It’s funny to think back to the Blond Ambition Tour when the Pope tried to stop your show in Rome from even happening.
Yes, he did do that. But times have changed so much then, in so many ways, and not just with the Pope.
Do you think he’d enjoy the show?
I do, actually, because at the end of the day, the message of my show is about love, and that’s his message.
© Rolling Stone