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Live Review: Natalie Portman keeps it short, Lovett or Leave It goes long


Following her week-long film showcase at Cambridge’s Brattle Theatre, Natalie Portman brought her love for film to Harvard’s Bright-Landry Hockey Center on Friday afternoon (May 25) to kick off her highly anticipated appearance at Boston Calling’s Arena, making up for a relatively last-minute postponement from last year’s festivities.

She appeared — and less than 30 seconds later, she was gone.

Portman’s tweet-length delivery served as an introduction of cellist Clarice Jensen, accompanied by ACME (The American Contemporary Music Ensemble), who took the stage to present a live scoring of a French silent film, balancing suspenseful instrumental intensity with innovative musical flavors. While the added visual of the film itself did confuse a number of show-goers, a palpable collaborative energy was obvious during the 45-minute window on stage which, in a way, made up for the host’s lack of enthusiasm.


Following that performance, a new crowd filled the arena, awaiting Jon Lovett, former Washington speechwriter and current host of Lovett or Leave It — and if the crowd’s roaring standing ovation for Lovett was any inclination, the Williams College alumni was set to deliver a live edition of his hit podcast.

“Thank you for showing up to a live podcast, which is taking place during a festival meant for music,” Lovett quipped as he settled into his lounge chair. “What a time to be a live!”

With a panel of three guests — New York Times best-selling author Alyssa Mastromonaco, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia writer Erin Ryan, and activist Blair Imani — Lovett used his hour-and-a-half in the spotlight to riff on a number of political and social topics that have reared their ugly heads through the past week, like the NFL’s newest policy regarding the National Anthem.


Balancing obvious political outrage with observational humor and a dash of sarcasm, Lovett captivated his audience by getting them involved in the proceedings, whilst encouraging them to get involved with this year’s midterm elections.

All of that, and he still had enough time to, on a number of occasions, remind the crowd that Harvard is responsible for the education that Jared Kushner received.

If Friday’s opening shows stood as any sort of foretelling of what’s to come in the arena this weekend (from Pod Saves America to David Cross and Cameron Esposito) there won’t be time to get picky about the general admission seating to say the least. Even if Natalie Portman treats the stage floor like lava.

Photo by Jason Greenough for Vanyaland. Click here for our Boston Calling coverage throughout the weekend.