The man who performed an exorcism in the Bold Street Tesco's is back
IT’S eight years since he memorably performed an exorcism at the Bold Street branch of Tesco’s.
To cries of hallelujah and joyous singing from his very own tribe of ecstatic, enrobed disciples blocking the bread aisle, there was but a single aim: not to mess with the heads of the customers and staff but to cast out the evils of consumerism and globalism. The moment, captured on amateur video, has, ironically, done very well on You Tube ever since.
Fast forward to 2017 and the saviour of a world doomed by excess - now with added Donald Trump - returns. New York based Reverend Billy and his wild Stop Shopping Choir slam into the UK for a whistle-stop tour, making landfall in Liverpool on October 23.
Expect humour, music and evangelical fun with political sermons galore from the award-winning, anti-consumerist gospel shouters and Earth-loving urban activists.
“If you’re concerned about global advertising, multinational control, climate change, the threat of nuclear war, supermarket domination, and all the constant controversy caused by the US President’s outpourings, this is for you. If you’re not, this is REALLY for you!.” they say.
The Church of Stop Shopping, led by performance artist, actor and activist Billy Talen, describes itself as a “secular political religion”, founded in the months after 9/11. Their performances in concert halls (and branches of Tesco) are directed by Savitri D, who co-founded the “church” with Talen in the months after 9/11.
Talen began his experimental preaching in Times Square in 1994. Soon singers were accompanying his “retail Interventions” inside chain stores; principal targets being Disney, GAP, Nike and Starbucks. He is legally banned from every branch of Starbucks in the US and the coffee giant has issued a memo to its managers: “What should I do if Reverend Billy is in my store?”
Since Trump, the church has certainly had fresh purpose - a repository of community anguish - they say. Joking aside, the number of Americans calling suicide crisis hotlines rose dramatically in the aftermath of his election, with many callers worried that his presidency would threaten the safety and civil rights of gay and transgender people, Muslims, African Americans and Latinos.
Apparently Rev Billy has an advice column in a New York newspaper called “Trump Depression Hotline” – and this effort to bring mindfulness and hilarity to these dark times became the name of the UK tour. ‘We gotta love everybody and show them we care ‘til they can’t Trump anymore’ he says..
Over in their NYC home, he and church co-founder Savitri D, who directs the performances, have taken to spending time in the public garden of Trump Tower.
‘We walk past the submachine guns and dogs, the body armour and the golden name of the white supremacist president that hovers in space above the door’ says Rev Billy
“We travel up gold-plated escalators to legally protected privately owned public space then we write together for 45 minutes. At the end we stand with our writing and recite or shout or sing our words at the 700 foot tall gold-tinted monstrosity’ adds Savitri D.
The Church of Stop Shopping hold services wherever they can, in theatres, churches, community centres, forests, parking lots, shopping malls, and perhaps most importantly, inside stores, as close to the cash register as they can get, within spitting distance of the point of purchase. Their feature film ‘What Would Jesus Buy’ was produced by Morgan Spurlock and their earlier film Preacher With an Unknown God won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
The choir has opened for Neil Young, been produced by Laurie Anderson, and hosted a Black Lives Matter benefit with Joan Baez as well as hosting their own parades, boycotts, and protests – all whilst singing multiple harmonies. To date they have performed in, and Billy has exorcised cash registers in over a dozen countries and four continents.
They were even applauded by the late Kurt Vonnegut who observed. “Rev and his choir enrapture large audiences with sermons to which Jesus himself would have said Amen.
*Reverend Billy & the Stop Shopping Choir Trump Depression Hotline Tour, Mon 23 October 7.30pm, The Cornerstone Theatre, Creative Campus, Shaw Street, L6 1HP. £Pay what you can 0844 8000 410 www.ticketquarter.co.uk