Monday, April 20, 2015

My Sunday Reader

I'm not much for suburbia, but sometimes the music calls.

A new venue, Tin Pan Alley, sits in the shadow of aging Regency Square mall and on the bill was Nellie McKay, a quirky singer I saw a few years back.

She was late taking the stage ("Sorry, traffic was a bitch"), looking adorable in a maxi empire-waisted dress that owed as much to the '70s as to Jane Austen. In fact, except for the length, it was identical to one I made in 1971 minus the pink ribbons.

She wasted no time sitting down at the grand piano and letting loose. Because her last album "My Weekly Reader" was all '60s covers, we were treated to a lot of that era's music and not just what came off the record.

I couldn't have been happier to hear "World Without Love" segue into "Georgy Girl," where she made an aside after singing the line, "Why do all the boys just pass you by? Could it be you just don't try or is it the clothes you wear?" saying, "I love that line!"

Telling us she was going to do a couple of songs from the musical "O Lucky Man," she whispered, "Don't tell anyone but if you look closely at the final scene, you'll see my mother dancing with Alan Rickman." Swoon.

Moving effortlessly between piano and ukulele playing (perfect for "If I Fell"), she didn't hesitate to start over when she made a mistake or solicit the well-behaved crowd's opinion for what she should play next. When someone called out for "I Wanna Get Married," she sang the clever and smart-assed lyrics to much laughter.

I wanna pack you cute little lunches
For my Brady bunches
Then read Danielle Steele
I wanna escape 
This rat race I've created.

At one point, she riffed on the piano itself, sharing that she'd once played Liberace's piano. "You could see yourself from every angle. He must have had very good teeth. Yes, yes, he did." Then she played "Red Rubber Ball," a Paul Simon-penned '60s gem.

She'd brought poet and "champagne communist" (an oxymoron if ever there was one) Steve Coleman with her to entertain while she caught her breath mid-set and when I couldn't wait any longer, I set off for the ladies' room, finding Nellie in the back strapping on a harmonica for her next song.

Two of the songs the crowd had requested were "Beneath the Underdog" and  "Moon River" in Portuguese and she obliged, along with "Broadway Melody" complete with trilling, after coming back for an encore that was half the length of her set.

When she took her place behind the merch table, most of her devoted fans lined up to buy something she could sign ("I'll sign most anything and Steve will sign anything"). I got her latest CD and a chance to compliment her dress and tell her how it resembled mine from 1971.

"We're married because of our dresses," she said of our bond, smiling charmingly.

See, it is the clothes you wear.

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