BWW Review: LINDA EDER Is Miraculous at 54 Below
The audience was on their feet and they were screaming. The house lights were up and the stage lights were down, though the band remained in place. They screamed and they clapped but the house lights stayed up. Eventually the enthusiastic crowd began to clap rhythmically. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. They were not going to stop, that much was clear. Finally the mane of golden-brown hair appeared, bobbing over the crowd, visible through the door to the kitchen. As the crowds caught sight of the feathery 'do bobbing to the rhythm of an icon's footstep, they began to scream.
Linda Eder was doing an encore.
Up on the stage, Linda looked at the band, questioningly.
"What do you want to do? Let's do Man of LaMancha."
The crowd erupted in elated excitement.
Linda Eder is a star. She has always been a star and she will always be a star. It is not possible for Linda Eder to be anything but a star. It is something with which every star is born. That is not to say that Ms. Eder did not put in a great deal of time training and learning to sing the way she sings, but when a human being opens their mouth to sing and a sound like this comes out, you know that they were given a little something extra when they were born - maybe it came from god (if one is a believer) or maybe it came from Mom and Dad, but whatever it is, the star in question has a genetic leg up. Fortunately for the world, Linda Eder took that leg up, applied hard work and determination and made her own destiny, giving the world the gift that is her continued singing career.
However, there comes a moment during every Linda Eder concert when it is quite possible you might say to yourself "It's not fair." Well, it isn't. Linda Eder gets to sing the way she does, then she gets to be one of the most beautiful people in the world, and THEN she gets that head of hair. No, you're right: it's not fair.
But that's why we go see the stars. We go to look at that beautiful woman and her scary amazing perfect hair and her million watt smile, and then we get to hear Linda Eder sing, live. And being in a room with Linda Eder when she sings is to experience pure musical mastery and heaven on earth.
And she's funny, too.
Ms. Eder does not work from a script. When she is not actively engaged in the art of singing, she stands casually, sometimes slumping to one side, sometimes straight and tall, sometimes perched on a stool, and she talks to the crowd, as though hanging out over the kitchen island in her house with glasses of wine and cups of coffee. She shares stories about her lipstick, her earrings, her dogs, her son, her love of driving ("I should've been a trucker"), and her career. She speaks spontaneously, so there's no telling what the next thing is that she will say, and often it's something that will make people laugh, like remarking that Christmas shows are hard to do because it means doing a little Christmas, a little Broadway, a little Eder, making for a slightly schizophrenic evening. These little chats with the audience are a fun way to learn a little about what Eder is like, indeed they are the only way because there is no story being told in her club act. No cabaret show is this, this is a concert, brimming with earth-shattering music and death-defying vocals, not one note of which should ever be changed or could ever be made sweeter. Musically speaking, this is a superb night out with Eder, Jerry Herman, Burton Lane, Arlen & Harburg, Alan Jay Lerner, and (natch) a fellow named Wildhorn. The Christmas music played includes traditional ("O Come All Ye Faithful"), secular ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas") and original Eder ("Christmas Where You Are") not to mention a festive singalong of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree/Holly Jolly Christmas" and the most unique and haunting "Silent Night" ever created (truly unforgettable). It's just one of the happiest places to be, a Linda Eder show, and the audience thrills at every note sung.
"She's a miracle!"
So sayeth a woman at my table during the curtain call ovation. She's right. Linda Eder is a miracle. The sounds she makes when she sings are heaven-sent. When it comes to the voice as an instrument, there are few finer, and Ms. Eder is lucky to have worked so hard and to have been born with so rare an instrument. So, when you have won the genetic lottery and get the privilege of owning a voice box of pure gold, what's the harm in doing a little extra work and learning the words to your songs?
There is a dreadful trend in nightclubs today, a trend to which many audience members (including this writer) object: artists who read the words of their songs off of a music stand, a cheat sheet, a monitor, or their phone. It happens far too often, and though there are times when it is perfectly acceptable, they are isolated incidents. There is no reason why a singer shouldn't be able to sing their set without a monitor, and Ms. Eder spent the entire evening looking at her monitor. It was distracting and it cut her off from her audience. Every time a singer looks down at a screen or a lyric sheet, they place a barrier between themselves and the people who came to see them sing. If the audience wants to just hear a singer, they can turn on a cd at home. Watching a singer sing, having them sing for you, sing to you, is a personal exchange between two human beings. Having Ms. Eder spend most of her night looking down at the screen for the lyrics felt like a letdown. Of course, there were times when a big chunk of lyrics was readily available to her, like "Someone Like You" but it was the exception rather than the norm. This is not the first time this writer has been witness to this sort of thing. I was present when Tammy Grimes sat on a stool and ready every word of her show off of a music stand, but at the time Ms. Grimes was elderly and infirm. It is pretty obvious that Linda Eder is a picture of health, with onstage stamina that leads to visions of her riding a horse on a beach or hiking in the Rockies, so one hopes that the need for the monitor is nothing more serious than laziness or stage fright because Ms. Eder is an incredibly likable and powerful performer upon whom all best wishes should be bestowed.
Maybe seeing Linda Eder live is supposed to be enough. When visiting the Louvre, one can look at The Mona Lisa. There is always a great divide between her and the looker: for awhile it was a red rope stanchion and ten feet, for awhile it was a plate of glass, these days it is anyone's guess what the method is that keeps patrons of the museum from getting up close to the work of art. Perhaps it is meant to be enough, getting to see her from ten feet away, behind a rope or a wall of glass. Maybe that's what we are supposed to accept for the great singers of the world. Maybe just being in a room while Linda Eder makes those sounds is supposed to be enough. It could be we are not meant to have a personal connection with her while she is singing, maybe we aren't supposed to get to see her face, or have her look into our eyes; maybe the thrill is only getting to hear her sing live, and that is something we should accept.
If that is so, then I accept. Because when Linda Eder sings "Bring Him Home" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye" it is a thrill. It is, in fact, one of the great thrills. A person of emotion, though, I will always err on the side of the more personal touch ... the singer who forgets their words and laughs about it with the audience, the crooner who croons the tune while looking at an audience member who might blush from the intimate moment. That's a thrill, too. That's why the most personal and fun moment at last night's opening at 54 Below was when Linda Eder shared the story of how she and her son, Jake Wildhorn, inadvertently wrote a song together, followed by the performance of that song, "If You See Me" -- the motherly joy and pride on Ms. Eder's face during the tune was a most human and heartwarming part of the evening.
There will never be a time when I don't listen to and love Linda Eder. She is, as a wise woman once said, a miracle. She is a star, she is a blessing and a gift to us all. No one is like Linda Eder and everyone should hear her sing live, at least once. It is an experience never to be forgotten.
Photos by Stephen Mosher