MICHAEL FEINSTEIN SINGS HIS GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK PERFORMS LIVE IN BALTIMORE
When I first noticed that the great vocalist Michael Feinstein would be performing at a fund raiser for the JCC of Greater Baltimore I did not pay much attention. Then I thought about it. How often does one get a chance to see such a talented artist in concert and it would be just a mile from my home.
Well, I was so glad I did. This was a memorable evening of great music sung by a star performer. Now I know what it must have been like to see Frank Sinatra live!!
Feinstein is a consummate performer. He has been nominated for 5 Grammy Awards and nominated for an Emmy. He has played the White House, Buckingham Palace, Carnegie Hall, and now Owings Mills, MD. He mainly performs in New York City.
There was a packed house at the Gordon Center on April 8, 2019 but it seemed like a small intimate cabaret with clever use of lighting on stage and occasional smoke emanating from the lighting. Feinstein brought with him Phil Palombi on bass and Mark McLean on drum. On piano was Tedd Firth and he alone was worth the price of admission. He's an accomplished arranger and pianist.
The evening began with "Almost Like Being in Love", the Nat King Cole standard... a great start.
Feinstein likes to combine songs. He chose the moving "All MY Tomorrows" (Sammy Cahn and Jimmy van Heusen) with "More Today Than Yesterday". Most everyone is familiar with this one but when Feinstein asked the audience who sang no one guessed it was the Spiral Staircase and written by Pat Upton.
He joked a lot about how come the best composers were Jewish. He labeled such an evening, an evening without Cole Porter. He then announced his all "gentile" band.
He then took his turn at the piano, giving Firth a rest, and sang the haunting "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper. He stayed on the piano for "Hooray for Hollywood" (Johnny Mercer and Richard Whiting), Firth took over mid-song and it became much more up-tempo. Feinstein thought of another number to the same tune, "Hooray for Challah Bread".
Once again Feinstein combined two songs, both written by Jewish songwriters but from two very different generations..." Wish You Were Here" by Harold Rome and "So Far Away". Both were included in Broadway shows. The first was a 1952 musical and is known as the musical with a swimming pool. The second was included in BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL.
Next came Jo Stafford's hit song "You Belong to Me" which included a lush piano solo.
Then came a tribute to the "Father of the Blues", W.C. Handy, and his classic "St. Louis Blues". One of the highlights of the evening.
Following that came the Helen Reddy/Paul Williams classic "You and Me Against the World". Feinstein joked he was "all for klempt".
He gave a tribute to the singer Bobby Short and sang his famous "I'm Confessin' That I Love You". It had a toe-tapping rousing ending.
Who was Feinstein's favorite singer he asked the audience? The surprising answer was Fred Astaire. He sang a song by Astaire and Ginger Rogers "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off."
Feinstein worked for the late George Gershwin for six years and talked about the works of George and his brother Ira. He then did a tribute to the Gershwins with "A Foggy Day:", "'S Wonderful", "Oh, Lady Be Good", "Funny Face", and finally "They Can't Take That Away From Me" which was introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1937 film "Shall We Dance".
And what did he choose for his last song? Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire", the lighting turned red and the audience spontaneously began clapping along. He even played the piano with his thigh.
The encore was a moving tribute to the late Peter Allen. He mentioned he was giving a two-night concert in New York featuring Allen's work this week. The beautiful number featured in the musical THE BOY FROM OZ (starring Hugh Jackman) was "I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love". A fitting ending to a spectacular evening of music.
If you ever get a chance to see Feinstein perform in person, do not miss it.