Rosemmary Clooney/ Michael Feinstein at the Festival Hall
Monday, June 18, 2001
by Mark Burgess
Some observations about last night's concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London. Michael Feinstein opened the show with a 70 minute set backed by a specially put together sextet which included Alec Dankworth on bass and Tim Garland on xax, led by John Oddo, who has been arranger for both artists for some years now.
Last Friday Michael did a solo show at the Stables in Wavendon which is a much smaller venue than the Festival Hall. At that concert he gave a near perfect two hours with less of the awful mannerisms he displayed last night.
The Festival Hall was 80% full and in the wide expansive stage the diminutive Mr. Feinstein seemed like Liberace's younger brother - bouncing on stage with that wide expansive grin and delivering show stopping numbers as if his life depended on it. He was forever telling us how overjoyed he was to be in London and how priveleged he was to be at the Hall and performing with Rosemary. I wish I could feel he was showing some honest emotion but Schmaltz with a capital S was all you could think about.
However, in his quieter moments such as the Gershwin tunes and songs such as "How Do You keep the Music Going," he creates a mood which approaches perfection and like him or loathe him he can certainly put across a good ballad!
Now for Rosemary (the only reason I saw Michael Feinstein twice ). I had been looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with Miss Clooney since I last saw her at Lena Horne's 80th celebration in New York. She hasn't appeared in London since the early 80's and all us fans had to go by were her regular recordings for Concord.
I knew that her breath control was at times unsteady but she can still create musical magic, even at 73.
Helped on stage by her husband Dante, she was led to a chair with a table and music stand containing her repertoire for the evening. She received a thunderous and loving welcome from the audience. Her voice sometimes faded to a whisper but, unlike Michael Feinstein, her banter came across as natural, warm, loving and GENUINE!!! Her talent and star quality remains undiminished even if the voice is a shadow of its former self. The audience was almost reverential in her presence and I think she would have been very pleased by their reaction. Of course she had to do "Come On A My House" which she reeled off at a fantastic lick, "Strike up the Band" was another good one, and as she said: "I've only got one new song for you" and that was James Taylor's "Secret of Life", which is a particular favourite of mine. She also performed, "But Beautiful," "Pennies From Heaven," "Thanks For the Memory," "Hit the road to Dreamland," "Wrap your troubles in dreams," "But Not For Me," "I Can't Get Started," and "I Thought About You."
Towards the end she called for Mr Feinstein to join her in a duet or two and at least from her side, you could see genuine love and affection for her fellow performer. They did "Our Love is Here to Stay" and "Isn't it a Pity" - the intro to which, gave the biggest laugh of the evening.
Michael turned to Rose and said: "I don't know if you know this Rosemary, but 'Isn't it A Pity' is Barbra Streisand's favourite Gershwin number."
Quick as a flash she retorted, "Do you think I could care less ?" No malice there (I think) but just a woman who has reached the age where she doesn't need to deal in false emotion.
At the end, they both received a standing ovation from an audience who was obviously glad that Rosemary had finally returned to these shores after too long an absence. I turned to my companion to ask her what she thought: (I should add that neither performer meant that much to her) and she said, "Rosemary Clooney,even at 73, has more talent in her little finger than Feinstein will ever have."
On my way home I turned my mind back to the thought that it was in the late 70's I first began seeing three singers in concert who mean the most to me. Peggy Lee, who was 58 when I first saw her, Lena Horne at roughly the same age and Rosemary who was 50 and making a comeback with Bing at the Palladium. Since then I saw them every time they appeared over here and on one legendary occasion, I flew to New York for one night, just to see Lena one more time on the occasion of her 80th Birthday tribute. Some would say I am just witnessing their decline but hey, if Peggy got out of her sickbed and gave a concert I'm sure I'd be there! Rosie is the last survivor and despite the occasional feeling that I should remember her as she was in the 70's, I'm still hoping she will come back to London next year for yet one more show!