Montreal International Jazz Festival 2012: Liza serves up rousing Cabaret
Photograph by: John Kenney/THE GAZETTE
There might have been a slight bit of trepidation in the air for Liza Minnelli’s Thursday night concert
By Bernard Perusse, The GazetteJuly 6, 2012 2:34 PM
MONTREAL - There might have been a slight bit of trepidation in the air for Liza Minnelli’s Thursday night concert at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts, given a photo of her in a wheelchair that was published only a few days ago.
And indeed, she walked the stage with a slight limp – the result, she told the audience, of breaking an ankle after tripping over her dog. “I gotta sit down and stop pretending it’s easy standing up,” she said six songs in, before delivering the evergreen torcher Maybe This Time from a seated position.
But she was soon back up for a rousing Cabaret, in true show-must-go-on, there’s-no-business-like-show-business fashion. That’s because Liza Minnelli, at 66, is still more showbiz royalty than you can handle: intense, magnetic and professional beyond words. The concert was exactly the way you hoped to experience Liza (avec un Z, as she delightfully reworked her theme song in la langue d’Aznavour). It was a privilege to be in the same room.
If there was any disappointment, the blame fell squarely on the ever-unreliable sound in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, which the larger-than-life performer was unlucky enough to catch on a bad night (Is Place des Arts ever going to do something about this?). The hapless listener often had to hold his breath, squint and cup his ear to try and catch lyrics or Minnelli’s amusing between-song patter.
Still, from the moment Minnelli – the recipient of the Montreal International Jazz Festival’s Ella Fitzgerald Award this year – opened with Alexander’s Ragtime Band, it seemed clear that she was on her game. The worst one could say is that her voice sometimes faltered on climactic notes or she occasionally spoke the lyrics or chose a lower note instead of going for the Big One, as she did in New York, New York.
More often, though, it was the full-tilt-boogie delivery. To hear Minnelli belt out “There’s still gonna be A SUMMAH!! A WINTAH!!! A SPRIIIINNNGGGG!” in But the World Goes `Round was to hear perfection. To see her get in character as Roxie Hart in Chicago (she replaced Gwen Verdon in the role for six weeks in 1975) and then killing it with My Own Best Friend was to see an era through a window that won’t stay open forever.
Although Minnelli had announced in an earlier interview that the concert would focus on her most recent album, Confessions, only a four-song sequence near the end came from the disc. But the set list, well-chosen as it was, was almost beside the point. The reason we were all there was to celebrate the legend.