18 November 2010: Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square, Cleveland, Ohio
Driving up to Playhouse Square Thursday night listening to Pink Martini’s Splendor in the Grass album, Tracy said to me, “I wish they would do a Christmas album.”
Walking in to the lobby of the Palace Theatre for our second Pink Martini concert in eight months, Tracy wandered over to the merch table and returned with a copy of the just-released-two-days-earlier Pink Martini holiday CD, Joy to the World.
We knew this show would be different from the Severance Hall concert in March – for starters, this one wouldn’t be with the Cleveland Orchestra, but we expected it would be largely the same – so it was a great surprise to be treated to not only a setlist of their standards, but also ring in the holiday season with some world-spanning Christmas music!
The little orchestra from Portland, Oregon opened with “Bolero”, which seems to have taken its place as their regular set opener these days (and without complaint – I love that song!). And they hit all the high points: “Sympathique”, “Hey Eugene”, “Hang on Little Tomato”, “Amada Mio”, “Donde Estas, Yolanda?”, and “Over the Valley”. Making room for the holiday tunes, “Verionique” was notably absent, and as much as I enjoy the one-two fun of “And Then You’re Gone”/“But Now I’m Back” off last year’s Splendor – and they were fun live earlier this year – I’m glad they excised them from the setlist this time around. As amusing as those two are, I’d hate to see two spots on the setlist taken up by them when there are so many other options in their rich catalog.
(Pink Martini at Pittock Mansion, Photo by Autumn de Wilde)
Joy to the World offered some beautiful holiday color to the program. Lead singer China Forbes transformed and owned both “Shchedryk” (a song Americans know as “Carol of the Bells”) in its original Ukrainian and “Little Drummer Boy”. Bandleader/pianist Thomas Lauderdale and the rest of Pink Martini had a good time with “Auld Lang Syne” and “Congratulations – A Happy New Year Song”.
Lauderdale, serving as ringmaster as much as bandleader, was in a particularly playful mood. He rode bandmate Dan Faehnle relentlessly on his Ohio roots. The former Diana Krall guitarist from Toledo was ribbed and quizzed and embarrassed by Lauderdale in the most playful and good-natured way. And when the band came out for their encore, they opened it with a rag-tag version of “Beautiful Ohio”, the state song.
Like in March, the band came out after the performance and signed autographs and posed for pictures in the lobby of the stately theater. While I maintain that House of Blues was the best venue to enjoy the band, the atmosphere of Playhouse Square suits Pink Martini just fine.