Michael Feinstein is back in town through September 15th at his personal club—Feinstein’s At the Nikko. Following his recent and spectacular appearance at Davies Symphony Hall, Michael’s Tuesday night opening performance was a sparkling blend of repertoire from The Great American Songbook. As the primo crusader in keeping early 20th Century American Pop/Standards primed and pumped, Michael bares his heart and soul through the masters of song. Michael brings his full palette of voices to interpret such enduring classics as: Without A Song; I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter; I Can’t Get Started With You; and unexpected blendings such as You Go to My Head with For All We Know. Also a skillful pianist, Michael accompanies himself through about half the set—painting a sultry environment for Gershwin’s Summertime to an all-out showstopping arrangement of I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise.
Part of the understanding of what defines the repertoire of the Great American Songbook – the song list generally stretching from the ‘20s to the ‘50s – is that none of the material is restricted to an absolute musical arrangement nor is it tethered to the persona or manner of the first artist who recorded it, presented it on stage or glorified it in a Hollywood close-up. In view of what is quickly obsolete in the vast majority of contemporary Pop, it is somewhat miraculous that such an enormous cache of song writing remains not only timeless and malleable – but can “go with the flow”. Moreover, the songs become increasingly independent of historical context. Michael’s heart-warming combination of two major hits from 1938 by Sammy Fain, I Can Dream, Can’t I? and I’ll Be Seeing You is a perfect example. Both songs emerge at the dawn of WWII and, by the way, were included in the Broadway musical Right This Way which opened that same year and closed after 15 performances. The lyrics from one song: “Can't I adore you, although we are oceans apart? I can't make you open your heart, but I can dream, can't I?”—blend perfectly with the sentiments of the other: “I’ll find you in the morning sun and when the night is new; I’ll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.”
Michael’s set also includes a charming re-creation of Louis Armstrong singing Hello, Dolly along with a quick glance at a nervous and paranoid Peter Lorre attempting a lines from Sondheim’s Losing My Mind. Add to that a whole new hit on Fifty Percent from Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s brief Broadway success, Ballroom. Even though Michael and his partner were married by Judge Judy, it’s a whole other level of dynamic and meaning when a Gay man sings the Bergman’s lyrics: “I don't share his name, I don't wear his ring. There's no piece of paper saying that he's mine. But he says he loves me, and I believe it's true. Doesn't that make someone belong to you?”
Michael will again belong to his fans in San Francisco come New Year’s Eve at Feinstein’s. Click here to stay in touch: MICHAEL FEINSTEIN