Ute Lemper in Hampton

Reviewed by Karen Scott

      On Saturday, April 17th at the American Theater in Hampton I attended a concert by the renowned cabaret singer, Ute Lemper. I wasn't sure what to expect, certainly not a recital-type program, nor the jazz fare I've heard lately, but from her picture alone I knew I would not be bored.

      I own a CD of her singing but like Marlene Dietrich the total experience of her performance could not be captured on a CD. Ms. Lemper is much more than a singer. She is an actress, parodist, composer/arranger and comedian all in one. She is witty and clever and held our attention effortlessly throughout the evening with her natural magnetism and dramatic energy.

      Her voice is powerful and capable of warm lovely sounds but rarely does she use them. She never misses an opportunity to color a word or distort a tone to achieve an effect. Communication is far more important than tone quality to Ms. Lemper, whose vocal colors extend from Barbara Streisand to Eartha Kitt. She often goes to the edge of expression and perhaps a little beyond.

      Ms. Lemper seems to be attempting to recreate Marlene Dietrich's seductive singing which came out of the lust and anarchy of the Weimar Republic era in Germany between World Wars I and II. In the program, Ms. Lemper explains "After a world-wide tour for my latest CD, But One Day (Decca 289473491-2), I keep on with exploration of music as an expression of the heart-reflecting culture, philosophy and social/political context. I was highly inspired by the project NOMAD, created and premiered in Paris, in June, 2003, which included and explored music of both Eastern Europe and the Middle East."

      Rather than singing a set program, the audience was given a sheet of song titles form which Ms. Lemper picked selections at whim. She sang Surabaya Johnny, Alabama Song by Kurt Weill, Bokserboym, an Israeli folk song (from NOMAD) and Astor Piazzolla's Buenos Aires (from her new CD) and All That Jazz from Cabaret and many others from the list. Her patter between songs put them in historical context. Her excellent combo included pianist Vana Gierig, bassist Gregory Jones, guitarist Mark Lambert and drummer Todd Turkisher.

      For an encore she combined Eric Satie's Gymnopedie into her own song. Satie's parody and her own mesh well. "As a performer I love to breathe and live inside the center of chaos in the worlds of today and yesterday. The longing for freedom and the search for a place of harmony lives through the stories and melodies of the songs... and in my own compositions I have never felt freer or more inspired than I do today."

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