Sunday, September 26, 2010
Liza Minnelli's fab factor wins out at Birmingham's Alys Stephens Center
Mary Colurso -- The Birmingham News
Well, for starters, she’s just so Liza.
Liza Minnelli, 64, has made her way in the world with an over-the-top persona, and wouldn’t we be disappointed if she failed that bring that to Birmingham?
A dowdy Liza, a shy Liza, a subdued Liza ... with this iconic singer and actress, anything less than an absolutely fabulous Liza simply wouldn’t cut it.
But Saturday’s audience at the Alys Stephens Center got the goods during Minnelli’s 7:05 p.m. performance in the Jemison Concert Hall.
True, the star’s trademark voice is less powerful than before. The big notes are somewhat smaller, the held notes rather shorter. And the breath control? Minnelli sounded winded after the very first tune, when she began to chat with the crowd, and she stayed that way through the entire show.
Funny thing, though: It didn’t really matter.
Minnelli’s a trouper — always has been — and although she obviously was trying to catch her breath between numbers, she managed to project confidence, charisma and celebrity appeal at the microphone.
Her mature style, if we can call it that, relies less on dazzling vocal strength and more on compelling song interpretation.
On stage at the Stephens Center, the Hollywood actress took over when the Broadway belter needed her.
Nothing wrong with that, and Minnelli made the most of her time in the spotlight, performing with a six-member band.
As you might expect, she runs a classy outfit, and all of the top-notch players (including pianist Billy Stritch) were decked out in fancy white jackets, black trousers and ties.
Minnelli’s fashion statement for the evening? Glittering yet comfy — and again, very Liza: an oversize black-and-silver shirt with velvety black pants.
For nearly 90 minutes, Minnelli applied her alto to a handful of signature songs ("Cabaret," "New York, New York," "And The World Goes ’Round"), several standards ("Our Love Is Here to Stay," "He’s Funny That Way," "I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby") and some material from her next album, "Confessions."
The latter tunes were created by classic composers, but they aren’t the most-grabbed chapters in the Great American Songbook. On Saturday, Minnelli put her throaty stamp on "You Fascinate Me So," "I Must Have That Man," "He’s a Tramp" and "I Hadn’t Anyone ’Til You."
Ticketholders at the Stephens Center had paid fairly large sums for their seats; prices ranged from $85 to $135, and some folks shelled out $1,000 to add a cocktail reception and dinner with Minnelli after the concert.
Was her rare set here — the only time Judy Garland’s daughter has visited Birmingham in 20 years or more — worth the price of admission? Maybe not for casual observers or super-critical listeners.
But for longtime fans, absolutely.