There are things you can be sure of with an Amanda McBroom concert: sincerity, intelligence, dignity, wit and representation of we humans as sympathetic, fallible beings. This evening, the artist offers both original songs and ‘covers,’ reflecting where she is and where we are – in the dark, but hopefully seeing light in the not too far distance. She’s in splendid voice.
“How do you like your eggs/Do you like your coffee black/Do you like the feel of a stiletto heel across your back?” McBroom sings mischievous, seductive… “A fine frittata/ Maybe something hotta?.. Huevos!” “Eggs” is an example of collaboration with longtime writing partner Michele Brourman. The women have symbiotic humor and concerns.
A tandem “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” (Irving Berlin) and “Dance Me to the End of Love” (Leonard Cohen) arrives wrapped in a serious arrangement – as if bombs were going off outside. Extremely apt I’d say. Approaching the scenario on a more personal level, “Sometimes” (Amanda McBroom) talks of unrequited love: “I was prayin’ like a pilgrim/That the night would never end/For a moment in the moonlight/You were more than just a friend…” Hope and holding on.
McBroom manages to get to the essence of feeling without falling prey to cliché. Her contralto has folk ease. The vocalist connects. Instead of looking in the direction of her audience, she picks out individuals and focuses eye to eye. Knee bent back, heel high, she steps across the stage in a reserved prance.
“I’ve been writing songs for Shakespeare’s women as if they were alive today,” introduces “Titania” -Queen of the Faeries from Midsummer Night’s Dream (Michele Brourman/Amanda McBroom). “Everybody’s gonna love an ass sometime/That’s one of nature’s rules…” Too true. The tune is bouncy and bright but sophisticated. Piano is dancy. Tonight’s title song emerges as poignant and resonant as it did in the late 1970s. Quiet, wrenching, making every word believable, McBroom barely moves, channeling emotion into her deft lyric.
Next, with a nod to the passing of Stephen Sondheim, comes a particularly rueful “Send in the Clowns.” Part of me wants to mutter “enough!” but her mature, from-the-gut version hits home. It’s as if pride and resignation have shackled any outward show of despair. Alan Chapman’s clever “Everyone Wants to Be Sondheim” lifts the mood appreciably. ‘He’ wants to be Oscar Hammerstein or Cole Porter – “What’s wrong with being prettier or shorter?” Brourman’s solo turn, “Another Way” (Michele Brourman/Mark Winkler) is a lovely ballad – universal, understated, true. Brourman’s heart is palpably in her vocal.
Yesterday, at rehearsal,” McBroom tells us, “Steve (Doyle) came in wearing a t-shirt that said: ‘We ARE the Asteroid!’” Ivan Lins/Brock Walsh’s “Evolution” is a discouraged plea for mother earth. Elbows bend, hands extend, palms turn up: “Welcome back Tyrannosaurus/Maybe we can get it right this time.” The frame of mind feeds directly into one of the artist’s signature performance songs, “Carousel” (Jacques Brel/Eric Blau.) Music box piano slowly swells as McBroom’s voice inflates, growing emphatic, finally turning grotesque. Her smile is gone as if shot off.
A stirring interpretation of McBroom’s own “The Rose” is dedicated to Bette Midler who made the song famous and gave its songwriter initial prominence. Midler herself is sitting quietly at the back of the audience. (McBroom discretely neglects to introduce her.) Hearing it again reminds one of its excellence.
“Just in Case” (Portia Nelson/Amanda McBroom) sums up the show’s theme. “Just in case the world should end tomorrow/Just in case Nebraska gets the bomb…” Carpe diem, people! Wake up! Please.
Photos by Maryann Lopinto
Amanda McBroom: Crimes of the Heart
Michele Brourman – Piano/MD/Arrangements/Songwriter
Steve Doyle- Bass
315 West 44th Street