Clooney croons classic

San Francisco Examiner July 15, 2000
Philip Elwood

"Legendary singer dazzles audience before the firstnote"

Let's face it. Who is the favorite earth mother of them all? Right - it's Rosemary Clooney, hands down.

A standing ovation at concert's end, these days, seems automatic; but one before a note has been sung? Few get, or have earned, that.

But Friday night as Clooney emerged onto the Davies Symphony Hall stage, husband Dante DePaolo on her arm, the audience rose and applauded. We should have sung, "Clap Hands, Here Comes Rosie," and let Clooney respond by singing one of her favorites, the Gershwins' "Strike Up the Band," which she did include as the fifth fine number in her first brief set.

"How you doin'?" she was asked backstage prior to the concert; "Not doin' bad for an old broad," she answered, her eyes twinkling through her laugh.

In the spotlight, the center of attention, Clooney radiates the same easygoing frankness, whether singing, telling or retelling her story about her audience with the pope; the one that ends with "Thank God."

She's as comfortable with her audience as with her songs, treating them both as old friends; which, for the most part, they are.

A veteran trouper can sing right into the listener's feelings, or soul. Though she refers to Bob Hope's use of the song as his radio theme, when Clooney sings "Thanks For The Memory," it's as if she is actually recalling that memory. It isn't just what one hears, it's what one feels.

She's been singing the Bergmans & Michel LeGrand's "The

Summer Knows" for some time; on Friday I finally felt moved - she'd caught me emotionally. Pianist John Oddo's arrangements for the accompanying San Francisco Symphony on this and on most of the evening's selections are magnificent, and his trio backup on "Thanks For The Memory" made me wish more of the concert's songs were similarly presented.

Voice amplification at Davies, for songs or comments, tends to be muddy and uneven. Many in Friday's audience missed most of Clooney's chatter and comments.

"Limehouse Blues" began, unusually, in a slow 2/4 tempo, with Clooney pecking at each lyric note; then, Oddo's arrangement floats into a key change, the rhythm picks up, and Clooney swings the tune out. Following that with the classic, "More Than You Know," Clooney seemed, as she sang, to be feeling the anguish of those 71-year-old lyrics - one of the warmest of love songs.