My love for Pink Martini started almost 20 years ago when they released their first album, Sympathique. I did not see them perform until two years ago in a show that was in my top ten of 2013. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see them again this week at The Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence.
This band (or is it truly a small orchestra?) is one of the most entertaining acts to see live. The two shows I have seen were quite different but equally wonderful.
The band has co-lead singers, China Forbes and Storm Large, who alternate shows (when you buy tickets to one of their shows – which I hope you will do when they come to a city near you – you know who will sing lead). I have seen both of them but I will not compare the two fabulous singers. This show featured Storm Large.
The show started with the band (sans Storm) taking the stage and performing a number that highlighted how tight they are. On this night, the band consisted of eleven members; founder Thomas Lauderdale (piano), Storm Large (vocals), Timothy Nishimoto (vocals and percussion), Robert Taylor (trombone), Gavin Bondy (trumpet), Phil Baker (bass), Dan Faehnle (guitar), Nicholas Crosa (violin), Brian Lavern Davis (congas, drums and percussion), Adam Maalouf (congas and percussion), and Anthony Jones (drums and percussion). Each musician is given a chance – and sometimes more than one – to solo, showcasing the talent that comprises the band.
Pink Martini performs songs from all over the world; tonight’s show consisted of songs sung in German, Japanese, Spanish, Turkish, Croatian, Farsi, and English. I understand Storm is probably not fluent in all of these languages, but she could fool anyone because she sings as if she was raised speaking any one of these tongues.
Storm is a sensual performer and I enjoyed watching her move as she sang. I was able to conjure a mental image of her in a small jazz club (such as Regattabar, one of the venues I frequent) regaling a rapt audience with her sultry voice and smooth dance movements, as she did with this large audience in an auditorium.
Thomas Lauderdale is the founder of Pink Martini, and he is a joy to behold on the piano. His playing style is animated; even though my view was of his side (or his back when I was photographing from the side of the venue during the first few songs), I knew there was a smile on his face showing his joy at performing for the first time in Rhode Island.
At the end of the first set, Storm invited people to dance in the aisles to ‘Dance of the Flying Squirrel’. Many people did, including a young couple dancing in front of me who were fabulous dancers. At the end of the show, Storm chose a woman sitting in the front row to lead a conga line through the auditorium and many people joined!
Other songs were a medley of ‘Get Happy’ and ‘Happy Days’, a duet that Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland sang in 1963; Dinah Shore’s version of ‘Never Stop Falling in Love’; ‘Hang on Little Tomato’; and ‘Yolanda’ (the last two are original songs of theirs).
At the other show I saw, when the band got ready to perform ‘Never on Sunday’ in Greek, for example, they invited Greek-speaking members of the audience to join them on stage and sing with them. I thoroughly enjoyed that and hope the next time I see the band, they do it.
There is much joy in a Pink Martini performance, and I hope I have interested you in seeing one of their fine shows. Regardless of who is singing, Pink Martini delivers one of the most solid performances I have seen.