Reverend Billy at Joe’s Pub is a Tonic for Our Toxic Times

Reverend Billy and members of the Stop Shopping Choir took their message to Macy’s shoppers on Nov. 24. Photo by Savitri D.

BY SCOTT STIFFLER | They made a list and checked it twice — but unlike the cattle stampede of shoppers who stormed retail stores, this vertical collection of must-haves was focused on how to give of oneself rather than take marching orders from Big Retail. That explains items #6 (“repurpose”) and 8 (“scavenge”), alongside reminders to “build community” and “exercise restraint.”

With this altruistic challenge to Black Friday in mind, a white-suited preacher and his golden-throated flock spent November 24 hunkered down in the heart of Herald Square — where director Savitri D staged an anti-consumerism protest to unfold as if a bout of performance art truth-telling had suddenly overtaken NBC’s coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Hey, Santa, what about this wish list? It’s full of 2017 must-haves for Reverend Billy and his flock. Photo by Kaori Fuller.

In a year where fresh slices of hell have been served daily by President Donald J. Trump, we thank heaven for Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir. Fresh from the front lines of street-level resistance and ensconced at Joe’s Pub for their annual December run, they fill that intimate room with the kind of tent revival energy that shoots through the crowd like an electric current of cosmic consciousness, until the space between performer and audience is as thin as the line between power and corruption.

Preachy in the wonderfully pure, purpose-driven sense of the word, Reverend Billy prowls the stage with a new inspirational sermon befitting each week’s particular theme. Dec. 17’s show, for example, centers around young women and girls — with members of The Lower Eastside Girls Club chorus joining Billy’s spot-on band and spirited, 25-member choir.

Politically aware and morally sound, this is one Sunday service that will send you back into the big bad world determined to keep the faith — and pass it on — until the balance of power has been restored by the scales of Karmic justice (and voter turnout?). It’s a long arc, yes, but this communal exercise in basic decency makes you believe that lasting change is just around the bend.

“NOW! NOW! NOW!” is presented Sundays through Dec. 17, 2pm, at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette St., btw. Astor Pl. & E. Fourth St.). Tickets are $15. Visit joespub.publictheater.org or call 212-967-7555 for reservations. Get info on Church of Stop Shopping activities at revbilly.com.

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