BWW Review: HERB ALPERT AND LANI HALL Rock The Cafe Carlyle With an Evening of Classics
During dinner, the crowd was as proper as can be as they wined and dined on the Carlyle's superb food. But once Alpert and his band started playing, you could feel a visceral change in the air. The audience filled with joy at hearing the old tunes performed live. It felt a little like a very, very fancy rock concert - the kind where men are required to where jackets and you can order a side of caviar while you enjoy the music.
I've been to a lot of 1960s and 70s nostalgia concerts (more than any person my age has a right to, but that's another story) and Alpert's was easily one of the best. With these types of concerts, you often get musicians who feel like they're doing it for the money, and simply going through the motions of old songs that you can tell they'd rather not be playing anymore. You leave being able to say you saw so-and-so live, but it all feels a little hollow.
However, at 84 years old, Albert is still at the top of his game. Alpert played with the confidence of someone with nothing to prove, and nothing to gain besides the pure love of the music, and seeing his fans' faces light up. He's a jazz legend, and he's still growing as a musician, but he doesn't act like playing the old standbys is beneath him. At one point he said that he performs these concerts because "when I play the songs, it puts me in the moment of my life [when I first performed them], and it puts you back too, and it's a beautiful thing."
And it was beautiful watching the crowd transported back in time. The audience was in love with Alpert, and they showed it. He had a wry sense of humor about the nostalgia angle, asking if he looked like "one of those old geezers" playing songs from their heyday.
"This is what you want to hear, right?" he said, before launching into a medley of Tijuana Brass songs. "You'll let me know if it is." (He clarified not to actually let him know - he doesn't take requests.)
Hall and Alpert played a mix of the familiar classics the crowd wanted, and newer material to keep it surprising and fresh. (Among the highlights of the newer songs was a jazzy orchestration of "Putting on the Ritz" with a hiphop beat, and a slow, jazzy cover of Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours." They invited the crowd to sing along on some of the massive hits from way back when like "This Guy's in Love with You" and "Close to You." (Alpert opined that he recorded his version before the Carpenters did, but he didn't release his in time.)
One of the sweetest parts of the concert was seeing Hall and Alpert together. They've been married for over 40 years, and still seem to love each other as much as they love their music. Alpert said that Hall's singing "gives [him] goosebumps. There's no singer that can sing those songs like Lana."
As far as whether the ticket price is worth it, that's probably in the eye of the beholder. It depends on how much you love Alpert. You're not paying just for any jazz concert, you're paying to see the one and only Herb Alpert, and for dinner in the Cafe Carlyle, which is an experience unto itself. If you can swing it - and if you're a child of the 60s and 70s, or a jazz aficionado - seeing Herb Alpert and his band is definitely memorable. Proceeds from the concert are being donated to the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation.
Performances will take place Tuesday-Saturday at 8:45 pm (no show on Thanksgiving). Reservations can be made online via Ticketweb. Café Carlyle is located in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue).