Donate Now to Support KDHX

Listen Live
Monday, 14 May 2012 17:07

Michael Feinstein delivers cabaret on steroids for Mother's Day

Written by Chuck Lavazzi
Rate this item
(2 votes)

The Details

massjazz.blogspot.com
massjazz.blogspot.com

Michael Feinstein’s appearance with the St. Louis Symphony on Mother’s Day had all the elements of a classic, well-crafted cabaret show.

Yes, there was a full orchestra on stage (making it something of a cabaret show on steroids), but Mr. Feinstein connected with the audience as if he were performing at a small club with only his Steinway. There even moments of surprising intimacy—remarkable, given that this was, after all, Powell Hall.

But then Mr. Feinstein is an impressive combination of cabaret artist and musical historian, specializing in what has come to be referred to as the “Great American Songbook” (or, as he jokingly referred to it, “the Rod Stewart Songbook”): the pop and theatre music that dominated American culture from the 1920s into the 1970s. He has this stuff in his blood, singing and playing it as easily as some of us speak. He talks about the songs, their creators, and the performers who introduced them as though they were his friends (a few of them actually were).

The program was pure mainstream songbook, from Berlin’s first hit, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (with a slight lyrical alteration to make it less bellicose) to Kander and Ebb’s “New York, New York”. Probably the least familiar numbers were Gershwin’s droll “By Strauss” (from the 1946 revue “The Show is On”) and Jerry Herman’s “I Won’t Send Roses” (a classic song of ambivalent love from “Mack and Mabel”, where it was sung by Robert Preston).

The performance of that latter song, by the way, yielded one of the afternoon’s classic cabaret moments. Mr. Feinstein accompanied himself at the piano and everything was flawlessly “in the moment” until the very end, when a bit of modulation went awry and he ended up singing the final note loudly instead of softly as the song clearly requires. Rather than brazen it out, he did what any good cabaret artist should do under the circumstances: he apologized, went back and re-did the ending perfectly.

That aside, the rest of the program was about as polished as anyone could wish. Mr. Feinstein is, of course, a charming performer and an engaging storyteller, liberally sprinkling the show with tidbits on the songs and their creators. He’s a strong singer, with a ringing head voice and smooth falsetto, equally at home belting out a medley of “Luck be a Lady” and “All I Need is the Girl” or crooning the Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields classic “The Way You Look Tonight” in an arrangement based on the one Jobim did for Sinatra in 1964. He’s also an impressive pianist and got great backing from the symphony musicians under the baton of his music director Sam Kriger.

He’s also a great admirer of the work of George Gershwin (as am I), and even though he didn’t get around to a solid Gershwin set until the end of the second act, it felt like the spirit of the composer was never far away, especially when quotes from the “Concerto in F” popped up in both a flashy “big band” arrangement of “Brazil” (complete with impressive trombone and trumpet solos) and the bluesy intro to “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” as well. His tribute to Gershwin included the arrangement of “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” used in the 1936 film “Swing Time”, where it was sung by Fred Astaire. It lost the Oscar that year to “Sweet Leilani”, of all things, but the arrangement was Ira Gershwin’s favorite nevertheless.

Mr. Feinstein concluded the Gershwin segment by asking mothers in the audience to call out the titles of their favorite Gershwin tunes and then improvising a medley based on the requests. I suspect the medley would have ended with “Our Love is Here to Stay” even if nobody had suggested it, though. It was, after all, George Gershwin’s last song and writing the lyric for it pulled Ira out of the depression caused by his brother’s death. You couldn’t ask for a better way to end a tribute to the Gershwins.

Michael Feinstein’s appearance with the symphony was, in short, a very classy and entertaining way to spend the afternoon on Mother’s Day. My mom, who grew up with this music, certainly enjoyed it. Judging from the audience response, she was clearly in the majority.

Post-season activity at Powell Hall continues through June 22nd. Upcoming events include a pops concert featuring “Rhapsody in Blue” with Sarina Zhang at the keyboard and Ward Stare at the podium on Friday, May 18; a concert by the Youth Orchestra on Sunday, May 20; and “Bond and Beyond: 50 Years of 007” on Saturday, June 2. For more information, visit stlsymphony.org.

Complete song list:

Medley: “Luck Be a Lady” (Loesser) / “All I Need is the Girl” (Styne / Sondheim)
“I Concentrate on You” (Porter)
“I Wanna Be Around” (Mercer / Vimmerstedt)
“I Won’t Send Roses” (Herman)
“Brazil” (Barroso)
“The Folks Who Live on the Hill” (Kern / Hammerstein)
“Somewhere” (Bernstein / Sondheim)
“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (Berlin)
“Once in a Lifetime” (Bricusse / Newley)
“The Way You Look Tonight” (Kern / Fields)
“I Love a Piano” (Berlin)
Medley: “When I Fall in Love” (Young / Heyman) / “My Foolish Heart” (Young / Washington)
“Fascinatin’ Rhythm” (Gershwin)
“They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (Gershwin)
Gershwin medley: “By Strauss” / “I Got Rhythm” / “Someone to Watch Over Me” / “Our Love is Here to Stay”
“For Once in My Life” (Miller / Murden)
“New York, New York” (Kander / Ebb)

Additional Info

Sponsor Message

Become a Sponsor

Find KDHX Online

KDHX on Instagram
KDHX on YouTube
KDHX on SoundCloud
KDHX on Facebook
KDHX on Twitter
KDHX on flickr

Local Artist Spotlight


Karate Bikini - A Simpler Sugar

Wed November 26
Karate Bikini is an eight piece ensemble who's members hail from St. Louis and the metro area. They are a large band with a large sound. Their latest album A Simpler Sugar is full of upbeat pop songs,…

KDHX Recommends

January
Saturday
17

Recording Clinic with Patrick Crecelius

KDHX is proud to host a DIY mixing workshop for musicians at The Stage at KDHX. The clinic will be taught by Patrick Crecelius of Cedar Box Studio. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, his credits include such local artists as Ryan...


January
Sunday
18

88.1 KDHX Musical Merry-Go-Round Welcomes The Boogers

The Boogers are the brainchild of Dr. Paul Crowe. Fatherhood, a PhD in Developmental Psychology, and 20 years of sloggin' it in wretched clubs as a punk rocker - even opening for Dee Dee Ramone and Marky Ramone - formed Paul's...


February
Sunday
01

Discovery Series

The Discovery Series, a 10-event series spanning February to June, 2015, will not only bring you new music, but also music-focused interactive sessions that take a look at how music plays a role in our society. Each month the...


Get Answers!

If you have questions or need to contact KDHX, visit our answers portal at answers.kdhx.org.

Online Users

1 user and 14123 guests online
Sign in with Facebook

SYSTEM: S5 Box

Login/My Account

Sign in with Facebook