Category: Editorial

Underground Thursday: "The Waves" by Villagers

Lovely new song and video from this Irish indie group. Video below.

Cabaret Review: Sue Raney

It’s entirely fitting that one of singer Sue Raney’s recent albums was a tribute to Doris Day. Like Day, Raney is a blonde creature of sunlight. She may be a more sophisticated stylist today than she was in her 1960s heydey, but her main attraction is still the warm golden glow of her phrasing and tone.

Time has added jazziness and a gentle melancholy, but the result is more romantically autumnal than truly dark. Raney’s interpretation of Day’s career-making hit “Sentimental Journey” speaks volumes about both singers. Raney’s reading is jazzier and tells more of a story, but still celebrates sentiment and travel in the same way Day’s original did.

For her first New York nightclub engagement in 25 years, Raney is accompanied by her longtime colleague Alan Broadbent on piano, whose approach is kissed by that same sunset warmth. Broadbent and Raney both interpret from a personal, emotional place, erasing the distance some jazz performers place between themselves and the material. Their approach to songs is never merely polite.

Her take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “It Might As Well Be Spring” would no doubt have pleased the composers immensely, since she nails both the song’s essential optimism and the wry wink that goes with it. She doesn’t commit the cabaret sin of singing too many ballads, but, it must be said, she never really lets loose or swings either.

Indeed, sometimes she and Broadbent are almost too warmly emotional, giving songs an almost easy listening sheen. No danger of that, however, in Raney’s slowed-down interpretation of “Que Sera Sera”, which really pays attention to the lyrics and their cautious, almost rueful edge. Raney is always a very expressive singer, never descending into the quietly reverent. Overall, a lovely, soothing show.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.

Underground Thursday: "The Palace Garden, 4am" by Beat Connection

Indie electronic group from Seattle (they call what they do as “tropical psychedelic pop”) with a lovely, atmospheric song and video, below.

Cabaret Review: Mark Nadler

Cabaret star Mark Nadler is one of the greatest showmen of our time, capable of leaping from floor to piano bench, tap-dancing madly, singing and keeping steady eye contact with the audience, all this while playing a complex passage on the piano without even glancing at the keys. However, in his latest at 54 Below, I’m A Stranger Here Myself, he takes a somewhat more low-key approach – the abundant theatrics and virtuosity are still there, but applied in a different way.

For this show, Nadler performs songs by German and French songwriters who were active between 1919 and 1933, the years of Germany’s Wiemar Republic (though not all the songs are from that period). Nadler examines these composers’ lives as well as those of ordinary German citizens caught up in that politically and emotionally charged period, leading his audience into some surprising corners.

There’s usually at least a gay subtext to Mark’s shows, but gayness is all out in the open on this one, where he spends much time reflecting on the place of gays and Jews in the socially progressive Wiemar era. As open an era as it was, though, homosexuality was still illegal, and Nadler highlights the bravery of lyricist Kurt Schwabach and composer Mischa Spoliansky who wrote the totally astonishing “Lavender Song (Das Lila Lied)” – as defiant an anthem for gay rights as I’ve ever heard – in 1920.

I’m always referring to the titles of Mark’s shows and talking about them as theatrical pieces. That’s because, more than any other cabaret artist I’m aware of, Nadler puts his shows together with passionate intelligence and careful structuring – to truly stunning results. His shows are truly theatre pieces and truly cabaret, all at once. There are always many layers in a Mark Nadler show, ranging from the obvious, to the unspoken subtext, which gives an “oomph” far, far beyond your typical cabaret show. This one has an even more profound emotional pull, and is truly not to be missed.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see dramaqueennyc.com.

Underground Thursday (on Friday): "Octopus" by Bloc Party

Great song from Brit indie rockers, with out gay lead singer Kele Okereke. Video below.

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