Liza-with-a-z Does Jazz …

My on-the-night review from The Scotsman (7/7/11)

Liza Minnelli, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

When Liza Minnelli summons you to the cabaret, you are powerless to resist – at least if you are Glaswegian. “Put down your knitting, the book and the broom… come hear the music play” goes the song, and hundreds of Glasgow grannies did as they were commanded, settling into their Β£95 seats alongside those devoted gay fans for whom a Liza concert is almost a call to arms.

Three years is a long time in showbiz – especially if you’re in your sixties. And in the three years since Liza Minnelli last performed in Glasgow, she has clearly had to cut back on the physical side of her act which, last time, involved a fair bit of dancing. Even without the dancing (undoubtedly dropped as a result of a knee replacement op), there was much panting and breathlessness – though this abated as the evening (she was onstage for 90 minutes, non-stop) went on, as if the adulation from the excitable audience boosted her oxygen supply.

Last night’s performance was much more of a concert than the previous show, and it seemed to mark the start of a new chapter in this unstoppable woman’s career. Having dispensed with the obligatory, big, crowd-pleasing show tunes – which she really didn’t have the power to belt out the way she used to – in the first part of the evening, she gently eased the audience into a section of the programme which was quieter, more reflective and much, much more thrilling than her well-known signature songs.

Surrounded by darkness for a clubby feel, and with jazzier arrangements being played by her sextet, Minnelli introduced songs from her recent, very intimate, Confessions album. The witty and wry Dietz and Schwartz ballad Confession, a duet with her pianist and musical director Billy Stritch, set the mood for what was in effect a jazz-style “set” within the concert.

Over the course of five or six ballads, every lyric was beautifully delivered, every phrase spot-on, and every song served with great taste and style. All breathlessness had gone, the voice was rich and strong, there were no big notes requiring belting-out, and Minnelli could work her magic as a storyteller – most memorably on a gorgeous interpretation of I Must Have That Man, the little-known ballad On Such a Night As This, and her penultimate encore, Every Time We Say Goodbye.

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