Last night an enthusiastic London audience celebrated the end of the run of an American musical diva born in 1947 whose career has touched millions.
For once, not Glenn Close who also climaxed at the Coliseum last night but the redoubtable Amanda McBroom, song stylist and lyricist, with composer accomplice Michelle Brourman, at the Crazy Coqs where even a one-night stand is a prize but the ladies have completed its longest-ever engagement of two full weeks.
Their songs all have narrative, and perfect rhymes, and clever keyboard underscores by Brourman that evoke time and place with subtlety rather than pastiche. No wonder she was once the piano player in Bob Dylan’s band. McBroom’s anecdotal introductions flow naturally into the lyrics and it’s like a confessional evening of self-deprecating storytelling during which you can’t help but warm to her.
Sure, some of the love in the room is a tad cosy: everybody she’s ever met is ‘wonderful’ and there’s a lot of hand-kissing to friends and family in the audience but just enough salted asides to tell you that the other side of three martinis this broad really could dish the dirt on the stars she’s worked with.
Most of the set is their own compositions but McBroom shared some advice to ‘sing something they’ll know’ and interposed a gentle version of Cole Porter’s ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ although freely interpreted and I missed the precision of Porter’s original tune.
Three standout pieces: two you’ll know and one you don’t – Jacques Brel’s complex and multi-parted ‘Carousel’ rose and fell from delicate ballad to defiant anthem and back as McBroom teased out its demanding variations of tempi, even allowing herself vocal tricks and comic hand gestures before bringing it to a forceful zenith.
Although she sings the love song to her late dad, fourth-billing movie actor David Bruce who always died with his boots on a few paces from ‘Errol Flynn’ I much preferred the drier wit of ‘Saturday Night in Reynosa’: a gawky and personal teen romance where, living in a tiny dull town on the edge of Texas, high schoolers discover 35-cent tequila and free love across the Mexican border.
And then, the big one. I have lost count of the number of times I sang ‘The Rose’ with London Gay Men’s Chorus over the past fifteen years but the song McBroom and Brourman composed for the 1979 Bette Midler movie is close to so many hearts that it is a unique pleasure to finally sit at the feet of its composers and hear it rendered to perfection.
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