Review: SANDRA BERNHARD Invites Us to Her Upbeat, Spontaneous and Irreverent SPRING AFFAIR at City Winery

Sandra's Latest Concert Consistently Delights.

By: Jun. 07, 2023
Review: SANDRA BERNHARD Invites Us to Her Upbeat, Spontaneous and Irreverent SPRING AFFAIR at City Winery
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Sandra Bernhard is a unique personality.  From her days in the 1980s, when she would razz David Letterman on his own late-night talk show, almost upstage Robert DeNiro in a Martin Scorsese film, and starred in a hit one-woman Off-Broadway cult classic, Bernhard has never been one to mince words, calling out hypocritical celebrities and politicians, while also adoring famous icons in equal measure.    Decades later, Sandy is still going strong, making appearances in support of the LGBTQ+ community she’s a member of (she was part of Miami Pride in April, during the whole Ron DeSantis madness) and always giving her fans her unfiltered thoughts, whether on her SiriusXM podcast, Sandyland, or in various concert appearances, like her annual holiday residency at Joe’s Pub, and one-offs like her recent concert at City Winery, SPRING AFFAIR.

Review: SANDRA BERNHARD Invites Us to Her Upbeat, Spontaneous and Irreverent SPRING AFFAIR at City Winery

With a music stand full of songs and musings at her fingertip, Bernhard held nothing back.  SPRING AFFAIR was two-thirds comedy show and one-third concert, the balance she has perfected to sate fans ever since her 1988 Off-Broadway show and the subsequent 1990 film Without You, I’m Nothing. I will admit the cast recording cassette of that show shaped the way I absorb and appreciate Bernhard’s style of honesty, music, and comic timing.  All my friends and I have to do is say, “There must have been dust on those mints” to crack each other up.

And there was no disappointment in this wildly amusing and off-the-cuff show at City Winery.  Ok, one.  And I hate to bring it up, but why call the show SPRING AFFAIR, have her immensely talented Sandyland band play a few moments of the Donna Summer classic as her entrance music, and then not sing the song at all?   And, thus, ends my one negative critique of the show.  She, instead, chose to start the show with The Bangles’ “Manic Monday” (written by a Bernhard favorite: Prince): perfectly fun and on-brand.

Bernhard's stories and observations covered far-ranging subjects, from people she observed at the American Express Platinum Lounge at airports to Taylor Swift’s recent concerts in the tri-state area lasting over 3 ½ hours long to the recent death of Tina Turner to the TV series Yellowstone.  In reference to her own life, Sandra talked about present-day musings, including everyday cleaning products, her conversations with younger Pose co-stars and being indignant as to why friends only invite her to weekend getaways, which then segued into an LIRR story that included a helpful worker saying she should buy (aghast!) a senior discount ticket. 

Review: SANDRA BERNHARD Invites Us to Her Upbeat, Spontaneous and Irreverent SPRING AFFAIR at City Winery

But the stories I love are the ones in which she reminisces about her past, like the insult of not receiving a letter from Jackie Kennedy after she donated to the Kennedy Library, like her friend did, seeing Bette Midler at the Palace Theatre in New York after her trip to Israel, having a crush on Phoenix Sun's basketballer Neal Walk in the seventies, and why she still has a landline.

There’s a sort of a free-wheeling, stream-of-consciousness air to the show, as she seems to be working out which materials might actually evolve into another Off-Broadway production.  So, meander she does, but if she didn’t, we wouldn’t have gotten a cool sneak peek into her working on “Tryin’ to Get That Feeling Again,” the song she would sing the next day as Barry Manilow’s guest at his Radio City Musical Hall concert.  We were suddenly, flies on the wall, getting a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes interaction between Sandra and her music director/longtime collaborator, Mitch Kaplan, as they worked on chord changes and the song’s bridge.

Review: SANDRA BERNHARD Invites Us to Her Upbeat, Spontaneous and Irreverent SPRING AFFAIR at City Winery

Other tunes Sandra gave her unique spin to (with an occasional shake of her tambourine) included an eclectic mix of Rod Stewart’s “Reason to Believe,” Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly,” Minnie Ripperton’s “Les Fleurs,” and, for her most subversive and raucous take, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”   Her immensely talented Sandyland band (including Kaplan on the piano, guitarist Oscar Bautista, drummer Andy Martinek, and Gabe Medd on trumpet) was particularly animated here, as she rapped and claimed the song for herself. 

Sandra’s concerts are always a treat, and this SPRING AFFAIR was no different.   She gave us what we wanted: songs, stories, and her occasional fantasy tête-à-tête with a celebrity (this time, Sandra regaled us with deep thoughts with Christine McVie and Mary J. Blige, when Motorolas were still a thing).  It’s comforting to know Sandy is still out there, fighting the good fight with her signature wit, sass, and conviction.  What?  I’m not tearing up with joy.  There must have been dust in my eyes.

The Sandyland Band:

Mitch Kaplan - Pianist

Gabe Medd - Trumpet

Oscar Bautista - Guitar

Andy Martinek - Drums

See what Sandra is up to on her website.

Info on her upcoming show, BERN IT DOWN, from June 22 to 24 in San Francisco

And you catch SPRING AFFAIR in Provincetown on July 28

See what’s coming up at City Winery NYC

Concert Photos by Cary Wong

Press photo provided by City Winery.


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