Duncan Sheik Brings His Talents of Music and Musicals to SF’s Yoshi’s by Kevin M. Thomas


You likely have heard the music of Duncan Sheik but maybe didn’t know it.

Sure his loyal following is so true that Sheik says he feels comfortable playing a lot of new material in concerts, like the one he is doing at San Francisco’s Yoshi’s on Feb. 8.

“At most shows, audiences get annoyed at the performers if they don’t play their hits,” Sheik says. But his audience is so familiar with his work beyond his Grammy nominated classic “Barely Breathing,” that he is comfortable introducing them to new material.

"American Psycho"

“American Psycho”

He admits he hasn’t finalized a play list yet for Yoshi’s but is comfortable in saying that he will likely mix in some tracks from his seven studio albums, cuts from his unreleased next album and songs from his musicals.

Yes musicals. Sheik became the sheik of pop music when he burst onto the scene in the mid 1990s with his big hit “Barely Breathing,” a song still featured in endless TV shows and often movies. While the critical success was always there, commercially his following dwindled somewhat.

Without even planning to go into writing musical theatre, Sheik says he was ready for a change as he “wasn’t thrilled with the direction of pop music and the emergence of boy bands.”

At the time, Sheik befriended fellow Buddhist and playwrite Steven Sater and a professional partnership was born.

"Spring Awakening"

“Spring Awakening”

Not a fan of musical theatre, through Slater’s eyes, Sheik discovered a way to make composing for the theatre worthwhile and since then he and Slater have made some beautiful music together.

Right out of the gate, the two made “Spring Awakening,” which won Sheik two Tony Awards as well as being voted Best Musical of 2006.

The two also collaborated on  “Alice by Heart” and “The Nightingale,” which was well received at the La Jolla Playhouse. Sheik on his own did other musicals including “Whisper House” at San Diego’s Old Globe and “American Psycho,” which is presently playing in London.

The New Jersey born Sheik actually didn’t seek out having two of most recent works play near San Diego he just finds that area “and incubus of new work.”

Both shows were well received and Sheik hopes there’s a further life for them.

As for “American Psycho,” based upon the novel that became a cult film favorite starring Christian Bale, seems to be doing well and Sheik hopes it transfers to the West End and possibly Broadway later.

With the subject matter being so dark and successful shows on Broadway are usually upbeat, Sheik differs and says that shows that “are a bit edgy and slightly challenging for the audience” often find their place in theatre history. “Remember that ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’ were considered very dark when they came on the scene,” he says.

Sheik is excited to return to San Francisco as he loves it here, especially the architecture, cool houses, shopping and museums.  “I love the SF MOMA,” he says. “It may be touristy but they have some incredible shows.”

For his incredible show at Yoshi’s, there is an 8pm and a 10pm show on Saturday, Feb. 8. To get tickets and more information, go to www.yoshis.com/sanfrancisco

Learn more on Sheik at www.duncansheik.com