Getting by with a little help from their friends, or in this case a near capacity audience, Rain A Tribute to the Beatles has returned to Chicago to play a brief but memorable concert style tribute to The Fab Four. Originally conceived as a show that featured a Southern California cover band playing the Beatle’s songbook in a tribute show titled “Reign,” founder Mark Lewis has reworked his vision into a much larger scale, Broadway caliber show. Just in case you do not know exactly who they are, The Beatles were four lads from London, John, Paul, George and Ringo, who revolutionized the look and sound of music, from pop to rock and roll. This cultural phenomenon has been brought back to life in period accurate costuming and is landing for one week at the Oriental Theatre. Featuring Steve Landes as John, Paul Curatolo as Paul, Alastar McNeil as George, Aaron Chiazza as Ringo with Mark Beyer playing additional keyboards and percussion, Rain follows the steady climb and eventual global domination of arguably the world’s first boyband. From the opening moments of the show, the audience is transported back to the magical 1960’s through projected vintage film clips and supporting sound bites. “We were a band who made it very, very big” they quipped. It is also significant to mention, all of the music heard during the show is performed live, not sung to prerecorded tracks.
The show itself was divided into multiple chronological vignettes, the initial opening graced with the iconic voice of Ed Sullivan introducing The Beatles! The audience was treated to a reenactment of the national American debut of the mop-top, Fab Four, dressed in sharp black suits with skinny ties, performing classics “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Hard Days Night, ” and “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You.” The opening set concluded with “Paul’s” stunning, solo acoustic guitar rendition of “Yesterday.” Throughout the show, multiple video screens double as the background set, alternating vintage images of screaming fans, the British Union Jack flag, floating animated yellow submarines, and photos of the attending audience members singing and dancing along. Do note, this show is performed in a traditional concert format, so the audience is repeatedly encouraged to stand, clap, sing and dance as well. It was quite heart-warming to watch the Baby-Boomers in attendance, mentally morph back into their youthful screaming teenager selves, pining for their beloved teen idols. Scream they did, loudly and often.
The second vignette had the band reliving their August 15, 1965 debut concert at Chicago’s Shea Stadium. Garbed in matching beige Edwardian collarless jackets and skinny black trousers, the kingpins of the mod youth style of the 1960’s performed “Help,” “Day Tripper” and “Twist and Shout.” The supporting background videos showcased the massive amount of adoring Beatles fans who turned out for that historic Windy City concert event, the likes of which had not been witnessed before. At the conclusion of this set, during a costume break, the audience was treated to projected vintage commercials of the time, including a Winston’s cigarette advertisement featuring an animated Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble smoking cigarettes! and a pre-Real Housewives senior citizen caught flipping tables and trashing a restaurant just because her soggy pickle wasn’t a crisp “Vlasic.” Shockingly dated examples of commercials from that era, now played straight for laughs.
The next segment, a well-timed celebration corresponding with the 50th anniversary of the release of the definitive 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album which was played in its entirety. Defining the psychedelic movement of the time, the cast paraded around in proud peacock style, appearing much like a hybrid of Peter Pan’s Captain Hook and a high school drum majorette. Multimedia background images alternated between floral patterns, paisley scarves, velvet jacks and bold, acid colors. Lava lamps too, of course. The band serenaded their enthused spectators with classic hits “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” “ When I’m Sixty Four,” “A Day In The Life” and the title track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
The final piece of the show began with sobering images from the Vietnam War and the Moon Landing, mop top styles now replaced by the antiestablishment “flower child” hippies. In voiceovers, we were informed the individual members of the band were starting to “pull apart at the seams” creatively, however each decided to come together one last time to record, Abbey Road, christened “one more incredible record.” This final set underway with the band members shouting “Chicago, on your feet” and then exploding with the rock and roll anthem “Revolution.” Waving peace symbols in the air, we were told “the war is over and… “Give Peace a Chance. ” Taking us to church, both metaphorically and physically, the audience swayed back and forth during a pointedly stunning rendition of the reassuring ballad “Let it Be.”
Rain A Tribute to the Beatles is a love letter both to the renowned and trendsetting rock and roll band as well as to their legion of fans. The Fab Four’s influence on popular culture and fashion is undeniable and arguably still resonates today. Their music clearly the soundtrack of the Baby Boomer generation, The Beatles legendary influence transcends generations. The final line of the show “Remember, long live the Beatles.” With magnificent, technologically contemporary productions like this, forgetting the Beatles and their impact will not happen anytime soon. So, “get by with a little help from your friends” and go see this show before it leaves the Windy City. Celebrating the music of The Beatles, you’ll relish Rain A Tribute to the Beatles ….” yeah, yeah, yeah!”
Rain A Tribute to the Beatles is now playing at the Oriental Theatre through Sunday, April 2, 2017
Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Maury Yeston and Victoria Clark
I am so pleased to announce our guests for this Wednesday’s show on February 28th are two time Tony winner Maury Yeston and two time Tony winner Victoria Clark.
Yeston and Clark first worked on his musical Titanic, which was written in 1997 and he won two Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Score and was nominated for Grammy Award. This year Titanic is part of the Encore series.
Victoria has two solo discs available through PS Classics:Fifteen Seconds of Grace and the recent reimagining of Maury Yeston’s acclaimed song cycle December Songs.
Maury Yeston is a composer, lyricist and music theorist. He has written the music and lyrics for several Broadway musicals, a classical orchestral and ballet composer.
His musical Nine in 1982, also won Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Score and was nominated for Grammy Award. Rumor has it that this show could come back. He also was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for two of his new songs in the film version of Nine.
His show Grand Hotel in 1989, received a Tony nomination for best score and Drama Desk Awards nominations for his music and lyrics, and one for his incidental music to The Royal Family in 2009.
His musical version of the novel The Phantom of the Opera, titled Phantom (1991), has received more than 1,000 productions worldwide and will be done in a concert version later this year.
His off-Broadway musicals include Death Takes a Holiday (2011), nominated for eleven Drama Desk Awards. Other works include December Songs, a classical crossoversong cycle commissioned by Carnegie Hall for its centennial celebration; An American Cantata: 2000 Voices (a three-movement choral symphony commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for its millennium celebration); Tom Sawyer: A Ballet in Three Acts, a full-length story ballet commissioned by the Kansas City Ballet for the opening of the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City; a cello concerto, premiered by Yo-Yo Ma; and other pieces for chamber ensembles and solo piano.
Yeston was an associate professor of music and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Music at Yale University for eight years, authoring two books on music theory. He also presided over and taught the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop in New York City for more than two decades beginning in 1982. Yeston has won two Tony Awards, two Drama Desk Awards and an Olivier Award, and has been inducted into The Theater Hall of Fame.
Victoria Clark is a Tony-Award winning actress, director and educator. She is currently starring on Broadway in her Tony award winning role as Kimberly Akimbo. Her first Broadway job was understudying in the original production of Sunday in the Park with George in the same theater she plays Kimberly in 38 years ago. Ms. Clark has starred or appeared in a total of twelve Broadway shows, and countless off-Broadway and regional productions. She received the 2005 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her luminous portrayal of Margaret Johnson in The Light in the Piazza, and received three additional Tony nominations for her work in Sister Act (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations), Cinderella, and Gigi
Clark is also an avid educator and director, Her breadth of experience and knowledge make her a highly sought-after star and collaborator in this country and around the world. Trained at Interlochen Music Academy, Yale University, The Mozarteum (Salzburg), and New York University’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, Victoria’s experience spans across classical and contemporary idoms, encompassing both existing and new work, in plays, musicals, opera, film and television.
Other Broadway shows include The Snow Geese,How to Succeed…, Urinetown, Cabaret, Guys and Dolls and A Grand Night for Singing. Off-Broadway she was in When the Rain Stops Falling (Drama Desk nomination), A Prayer for My Enemy, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, The Agony and the Agony, Marathon Dancing, Follies (L.A.), Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, and Katisha in The Mikado, both at Carnegie Hall. International: Madame Sousatzska in Sousatzska.
In film you can find her in The Happening, Cradle Will Rock, One Royal Holiday, Wanderland, Archeology of a Woman, Harvest, Tickling Leo and Main Street.
In television Pose, The Blacklist, Almost Family, Law & Order/SVU, The Good Wife, Mercy, and Carrie Mathison’s mother Ellen on Showtime’s Homeland.
She is also a wonderful director, directing: “Come to Jesus,” for MasterVoices’ virtual production of Adam Guettel’s Myths and Hymns; The Dance of Death by August Strindberg (Classic Stage Company); Love Life for New York City Center Encores! (cancelled due to CoVid-19); Scaffolding by Jeff Blumenkrantz starring Rebecca Luker for Premieres! (Barrow Group Theater); Paper Piano by Mary Jo Shen (Joe’s Pub); Hansel and Gretl and Heidi And Günther (Village Theater Festival of New Musicals); Newton’s Cradle, NAMT Festival, (Best Director Award); The Trouble With Doug/Fredericia Theater, Denmark; The Impresario (Philadelphia Opera Theater); eight productions for Texas Opera Theater, the touring arm of Houston Grand Opera, introducing students of all ages to opera and musical theater; Shakin’ The Blues Away: An Irving Berlin Revue (Goodspeed Opera House).
Loving the ability to give back she is a master teacher in U.S. and abroad. She is on the visiting faculty for Yale University, Artist-in residence, Duke University, and Pace School of the Performing Arts, where she directed The Light in the Piazza.
She is on the board of New York City Center and The Kurt Weill Foundation.
But her favorite role is Thomas Luke’s mom. Victoria resides in New York with her husband Tom Reidy and their rescue Golden Retriever Ollie.
“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a new show that will be filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our first episode click here second episode click here and for our third episode click here.
Hope you can join us for what will be one fabulous musical night.
The Glorious Corner
GORDON OH GORDON — (from The Guardian) In the 1960’s and 70’s, no serious rock fan viewed the drummer Jim Gordon with anything but awe. By the 80’s, none of them viewed him with anything but contempt, a 180-degree turn that led to his virtual erasure from the culture. Even four decades later, when the veteran music journalist Joel Selvin first tried to sell publishers on a book meant to tell Gordon’s story with nuance and depth, they balked. “They would debate it for months and then say, ‘Nope, can’t do it,’” Selvin said. “It was almost impossible for them because of what he had done.”
In 1983, he entered his mother’s house and began to attack her with a hammer, crashing it into her skull four times before grabbing a knife and stabbing her repeatedly, the final time with such force it pinned her to the floor. Soon after her resulting death, Gordon was arrested, charged and convicted of murder, and spent the next four decades in prison, before dying this past March at 77. Over the years, several prominent articles have been published that tried to trace the outlines of Gordon’s story, ascribing his heinous act to an diagnosed case of schizophrenia that forced him to hear voices and experience hallucinations. Yet only in Selvin’s new book, Drums & Demons, does the reader get a feel for the full horror of his disease and the mess it made of his mind. “In one of his hallucinations, he thought he was in a jail cell that was on fire,” Selvin said. “To me, that was a metaphor for Jim’s whole life. For him, life was a jail cell that was always on fire.”
Despite the chaos that created, both for Gordon, and increasingly, for those around him, Selvin aimed to tell his story with empathy. Only after the drummer’s death was, he able to finally convince a publisher to go along. “The guy got so little compassion,” he said. “I wanted readers to know just how impossible Jim’s life was and how brave he was in battling the disease.”
At the same time, the author meant to “restore Jim’s peerless legacy. Who has done more to put his mark on our music than Jim Gordon?” Selvin said. “What a playlist he was on!”
Just tracing the surface of Gordon’s contributions reveals more than 100 classic songs powered by his invention and finesse. In his early studio work, he appeared on an entire chart’s worth of pop hits, by acts like the Beach Boys, Ike & Tina Turner, the Byrds and Glen Campbell. By the 70’s, he became a key member of pivotal rock bands, including Delaney & Bonnie, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Derek and the Dominos and Traffic. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of California, Gordon became entranced by the power of the beat from childhood. He played in bands by puberty and, by 17, helped flesh out demos for the publishing arm of Liberty Records. That same year, he joined the Everly Brothers on a tour of England and, afterwards, became part of the storied Wrecking Crew, a loose collection of studio musicians who played on a dizzying range of 60’s hits. “Back then, there were loads of great studio drummers,” said Lenny Waronker, a legendary producer and record executive whose career started in the same west coast studio milieu of the 60’s. “Jim was able to plow through that. All the other musicians were amazed by him.”
Gordon’s role on those storied sessions extended way beyond the simple task of keeping time. “He wasn’t just a backbeat guy,” Selvin said. “He was a fully musical drummer who embedded his playing into the core of the composition.”
For instance: in the 70’s hit, Grazing in the Grass, by the Friends of Distinction, Gordon’s drum elaborated the song. “Even though there was a chart in which every note was written out for him, he added a Latin boogaloo feel that exploded the whole record,” Selvin said.
The fills and intonations he added to Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain contoured the melody and directed the listener’s ear to the record’s subtler touches. “Jim orchestrated that entire song from the drum stool,” Selvin said. In Maria Muldaur’s number one smash Midnight at the Oasis, he added a key samba groove, while in Steely Dan’s Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, the tricky beat he devised deepened the song’s debt to jazz. In doing so, “Jim became an important part of the hit-making process,” Selvin said.
Mark Lindsay, frontman of the hit group Paul Revere & the Raiders, immediately noticed Gordon’s gift after he was hired to drum on their song The Great Airplane Strike. “He was doing this polyrhythmic thing with a kick, a snare and a high hat, accented by tom-toms,” Lindsay said. “He changed the song up so much that I wound up rewriting half of my lyrics to fit was he was doing! Jim became the conductor of the track.”
Waronker recognized the same level of creativity on Sundown, a song he produced for Gordon Lightfoot that became a number one hit. “His drum part made the song move in its own way,” he said. “It’s a specific rhythm that Jimmy picked up from Gordon’s guitar. It became one of the most important parts of the song.”
In the 70’s, Gordon expanded his range to work with rock’n’roll’s most cutting-edge bands on the road. “When you listen to his live work with Mad Dogs & Englishmen or Derek and the Dominos, he’s unleashed,” Selvin said. “The ideas just flow from him.”
At the same time, the voices that were roiling inside his head began to find disturbing external expression. In an infamous incident on the Mad Dogs tour, he hauled off and punched his then girlfriend, the singer Rita Coolidge, in the head. “Here was a guy who was noted for being gentle, smiling and laid back,” Selvin said. “But that was just the mask he wore.”
Some people were already beginning to see through it. “[The singer] Claudia Lennear said she always wondered about that smile,” Selvin said. “It was too simple. She felt he was hiding behind it.”
“Jim had such genius,” Lindsay said, “but I sensed there might be something lurking behind the curtain.”
To Selvin, Gordon’s talent can’t be separated from his torment. “The level of intuition that Jim displayed
in his playing requires a certain electro-chemical makeup,” he said. “His highly personal style had to come from the same place in the brain that produced his schizophrenia.”
At the same time, the focus and power involved in playing drums gave Gordon a refuge from the cyclone of thoughts whipping through his head. “The combination of the resonance of the drums and the rhythmic entertainment of the groove produces a hypnotic feeling that can lift you out,” Selvin said. “Nothing calms a schizophrenic faster than a Walkman and a pair of headphones. For Jim, the drums provided a place where the voices couldn’t follow.”
Strangely enough, the herculean amount of recreational drugs Gordon took at the time also had a calming effect. “You would think that the massive amounts of cocaine he did would make things worse,” Selvin said. “But I talked to psychiatrists who said that it would normalize his dopamine levels. He was doing blow to feel normal.”
Similarly, the crazy rock’n’roll lifestyle of the 70’s, which Gordon exemplified, served as a cover for his increasingly aberrant actions. “The rock scene of the time was nearly indistinguishable from psychotic behavior,” Selvin said with a rueful laugh. “Jim just blended into the background.”
It helped that, at the time, he was still soaring creatively. In 1973, Gordon devised a pair of drum patterns that proved crucial to the development of two separate genres. His work on the Hues Corporation’s smash Rock the Boat, with its high-hat syncopations and danceable beat, helped patent the rhythms of disco. Similarly, his extended break on the song Apache, paired with the congas of King Errisson, became a foundational pattern in hip-hop that was later sampled ad infinitum. “When Kool Herc found Jim’s long drum break on Apache, he discovered that he could make it bound from one turntable to another forever,” Selvin said. “He was driving crowds nuts with that sound.”
By late in 1973, however, Gordon’s beat, and sanity, were beginning to seriously waver. He viciously attacked his wife Renee Armand, cracking several ribs in the process, ending their marriage. His work with the would-be country-rock super group Souther-Hilman-Furay Band grew so erratic they had to sack him. While he managed to keep it together in the studio for a few more years, by 1978 Gordon proved too unreliable to be employed.
In a reporting coup, Selvin acquired research that helped fill in Gordon’s inner life during that pivotal time. He found two women who, in the late 80’s, had gained the drummer’s cooperation for a book that never got off the ground. The notes they took gave Selvin access to jail house interviews with Gordon along with his medical records and related court documents. (Selvin sent several written requests to interview Gordon himself but they went answered.) Regardless, the research he acquired from the women allowed him to put the reader deep inside the musician’s roiling mind.
The voices Gordon heard shamed him so deeply, he rarely told anyone about them, which contributed to him never getting a proper diagnosis. His mother, one of his closest witnesses, believed that drinking and drugs were his problem rather than a symptom of something far more corrosive. While Gordon began to imagine that many people were torturing him at the time, the main voice in his head was his mother’s. “Because Jim’s father was a practicing alcoholic, his mother became the sub rosa leader of the household,” Selvin said. “That’s why she became the major figure in this panoply of voices hectoring him.”
As a result, it was her voice that he felt the most urgent need to silence. Once details of the subsequent murder came out, some observers who knew Gordon in his high functioning days were floored. “When I knew him, he was a tremendously nice person,” Waronker said. “He was the all-American boy.”
Selvin’s book describes what led up to the murder in granular detail, but he doesn’t write much about Gordon’s subsequent decades in prison because, he said, he found it undramatic. Often keeping to himself, Gordon became a virtual zombie due to the anti-psychotic drugs the prison pumped him with. Rare as Gordon’s particular case was, one key reason Selvin said he wrote his book was to let readers know how common various forms of schizophrenia are. “To me, the single most astonishing fact of the research I did was that schizophrenia affects one in 100 people,” he said. “Let that sink in: Multiple sclerosis affects one in 10,000! We see these people out in the street, hearing voices all the time. Their world is totally frightening. And I have nothing but compassion for them. Unfortunately, society doesn’t.”
The other key reason Selvin wrote Drums & Demons, he said, was to restore Jim Gordon to the popular music world. “He’s gone,” he said, “and he needs to come back.”
Drums & Demons: The Tragic Journey of Jim Gordon is out on 27 February.
SHORT TAKES —New bio on the Bee Gees by music-wiz Bob Stanley. The group, one of my all-time favorites, were huge, but in many ways never got the respect they deserved. Many people don’t realize that Robert Stigwood, who masterminded them to the top, used to work for Brian Epstein.I’m eagerly waiting for this one. From Pegasus Books … We watched Anatomy of a Fall and loved it. Its long, but fascinating and intense. A French legal drama, directed by Justine Triet from a screenplay she co-wrote with Arthur Harari. A great cast, especially Milo Machado-Graner, as the boy Daniel …
I watched the opening SNL monologue, with host Shane Gillis -who was fired from the cast for some racial slurs-. A sort of Adam Sandler-wanna be, I didn’t find him funny in the least. He actually reminded me of a low-rent Louis C.K. -remember him?
I don’t know why Lorne Michaels would even want him back, except for some splashy ink – which wasn’t terribly kind. This appears to be Michael’s next-to-last year on the show and he’s clearly choosing to go out quietly. No more gas in the engine I fear …
NAMES IN THE NEWS — William Schill; Anthony Noto; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Derek Taylor; Charles Comer; Howard Bloom; Mark Bego; Phil Goldstein; Tropique Records; Marsha Stern; Beth Wernick; Marion Perkins; Les Schwartz; Liz Rosenberg; Bob Merlis; Obi Steinman; Andrew Sandoval; Warren Lawrence; Jodi Ritzen; Jeremy Long; and CHIP!
Events for March
St. Patrick’s Day, Women’s History Month, a Harlem Renaissance exhibit at the Met with160 works by Black artists. Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature,at The Morgan Library & Museum through 6/9. The Orchid show continues until 4/21 at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Florals in Fashion highlights the work of designers Hilary Taymour (Collina Strada), Olivia Cheng (Dauphinette) and Kristen Alpaugh, aka FLWR PSTL Also Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz’s “Giants,”is at the Brooklyn Museum until 7/7. The exhibition features artists who have made and continue to make a significant impact on the art world and contemporary culture. The show features 98 artworks by Black American, African, and African artists including Gordon Parks, Kehinde Wiley, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mickalene Thomas, Hassan Hajjaj, Barkley L. Hendricks, Lorna Simpson, and Amy Sherald.
3/1 -3: The Vienna Philharmonic one of the world’s most celebrated orchestras, takes center stage at Carnegie Hall.
3/3 -5: Coffee Fest NY Javits.
3/3 -5: International Beauty Show Javits.
3/6 – 10: The New Colossus Festival provides a platform for new artists, including international bands making their NYC debuts. The festival will take place across multiple venues mostly spread throughout the Lower East Side and the East Village, including Bowery Electric, Mercury Lounge, Berlin, Heaven Can Wait, and others. This year’s artists include Cucamaras (UK), Ducks LTD (Canada), Heffner (US), Holiday Ghosts (UK), Hotel Lux (UK), Housewife (Canada), and more. You can check out the full lineup and schedule of events here.
3/8: International Women’s Day
3/15: The New York Pops Hitsville: Celebrating Motown
3/1 -17: The Annual Flamenco Festival with 22 performances across 13 different venues all over the city.
3/1 -17: The New York International Children’s Film Festival
3/17: Join in on the 263rd celebration of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC. The parade kicks off at 11am, moving along Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 82nd Street. This year’s grand marshal, Maggie Timoney, president and CEO of Heineken USA, is only the fifth woman to lead the parade since its inception.
3/20 -24: Affordable Art Fair with over 400 living artists to discover you are sure to find your next perfect artwork.
3/23 – 11/: JAPAN Fes, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. This is the largest Japanese food festival in the world, with over 1,000 vendors.
3/24 – 4/7: The Annual Macy’s Flower Show created in partnership with Dior.
3/26 – 10/2: Apollo: When We Went to the Moon at The Intrepid Museum. The exhibit is included with museum admission.
Cabaret, Talks and Concerts For March
Brave the rain and head out to the clubs for they abound in entertainment galore. Here are our top picks.
92 Street Y: 1395 Lexington Ave. 3/ 2 – 4: Soul Picnic: The Songs and Legacy of Laura Nyro; 3/ 11: Cabaret Conversations Sally Mayes and 3/18: The Ally: Josh Radnor and Playwright Itamar Moses in Conversation Co-presented with The Public Theater.
Birdland Jazz: 315 West 44 St. Every Monday at 5:30 Vince Giordano and The Nighthawksand 9:30pm Jim Caruso’s Cast Party; Every Tuesday at 8:30pm The Lineup with Susie Mosher; 3/11: It’s De-Lovely: Jeff Harnar Sings Cole Porter and 3/25: Karen Mason In “Just In Styne: Karen Sings Jule”.
Cafe Carlyle: 35 E 76th St. 2/1-3: Through 3/2: Jennifer Holliday; 3/3 – 4: Mallory Portnoy and Nick Blaemire; 3/5 – 20: Hamilton Leithauser and 3/21 -23: Orfeh.
Carnegie Hall: 881 7th Ave at 57th St. 3/15: The New York Pops Hitsville: Celebrating Motown; 3/20: of Sinéad O’Connor and Shane MacGowan; 3/23: Meow, Meow and 3/27: Standard Time with Michael Feinstein.
Moonlight and Love Songs
And so promised Steve Ross in his new show at Birdland, and he delivered both with his customary style, wit, and superb interpretations. This fabled music room takes on the hush of a cathedral when Steve performs there, evidenced by the silent reverence of the audience throughout his performance. Sporting his subtle homage to Cole Porter—a red carnation—Steve began the evening with tunes that described being on the brink of that most coveted of falls, and as the inevitable approached, his carefully curated selections become more tantalizing. Never has “On a Slow Boat to China” been more inviting– sign me up now! A few moon-titled songs followed, including one written by Steve himself. His guest star, Nina Wachenfeld, sang in German and seemed to conjure up Marlene as a bonus.
Kurt Weill and his haunting melodies were presented next, with appropriate tribute given to that great American wordsmith, Ogden Nash. Another aspect of the topic of the evening was Steve’s review of a few songs about love at first sight. Messrs, Coward and Porter put their two cents in, with the penultimate and heartbreaking “This Nearly Was Mine” putting a twinge in the heart of everyone as only Rodgers & Hammerstein can. Cole then did what he does best: teased and tickled the memory with his thoughts on the matter.
Steve’s ability to find new ways to make all these songs new for an audience is part of his wonder. He snapped us out of our dreamy reveries with a joke and then the ever-hilarious “Dolphins” and then encouraged everyone to do what we were aching to do—sing along to some classics from the 1940s. He has an uncanny ability to know what an audience wants and needs and switched the dial to drama with Dietz and Schwartz’s haunting “Dancing in the Dark”. The charming conclusion to this Valentine was the duet of “Married”. I have tried many times to dissect the magic Steve brings to his music and never quite capture it with words. You just must see it for yourself! A performance by Steve Ross is indeed transformative, as his ever-full audiences will attest.
In between engagements on both sides of the Atlantic, Steve appears regularly at Birdland. Check his website for future appearances, and possibly even a master class!
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