Monday, January 30, 2012

Petula Clark at Feinstein's

Let's play a word-association game. I say, "Petula Clark." 

And you say?

My guess is that you say--no, sing--"Downtown." Or perhaps, "Don't Sleep in the Subway, Darling." On the other hand, perhaps you get all Norma Desmond and say or sing, "Just One Look." Or something from Blood Brothers. Whatever your frame of reference, the happier you are to think of Petula Clark, the more you should check her out at Feinstein's at the Regency this week.

Clark's set wanders through her past, from pop to the West End, making sure to hit all the best-known moments. Her voice is pretty much shot, but she uses it judiciously, interspersing stories and even poems to give it a rest from singing, saving the big notes for songs that demand them. (If you can't do Norma Desmond big, why do her at all?) She's no Barbara Cook or Marilyn Maye (who is?), but she's extremely likeable, and while her songs aren't all well-sung or well-interpreted, they are all heart-felt.

While it was clear that dyed-in-the-wool Clark fans were in ecstasy throughout the set, for me it had definite ups and downs. The less successful pieces included "Someone to Watch Over Me," "The Man I Love," and "Miss Otis Regrets," all of which suffered from her reduced vocal range bumping into her not-super-duper interpretative skills. And, u
nfortunately, although Clark works hard to include the entire audience, her band has electric guitars and bass, and drums, and if you sit extreme audience right, it can be impossible to hear her when they start rocking.

There were quite successful moments as well, however.  The highlight in terms of singing was Clark's lovely, simple, in-French version of "La Vie En Rose," accompanied by Clark herself on piano. And the highlight in terms of overall experience was "Downtown." (The part of me that is still 8 years old was thrilled to pieces to be seeing Petula Clark in person! Singing "Downtown"! And asking us to sing along!) And the highlight in terms of Clark's wry humor was her updating of "Downtown" to reflect the loss of the cool clubs and the invasion of the chain stores.

If you're a Petula Clark fan, you'll have a great time.

(press ticket, extreme audience right)

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