Sunday, June 19, 2005

Young people--even the hip ones--avoid great musical event

Last night we went to a performance by Karen Akers, and--just as when we saw her a year and a half ago--there were no young people in the club. This was a sophisticated club in a city that is very sophisticated about music, so why isn't anyone young taking advange of seeing and hearing Akers, who is arguably one of the two greatest cabaret singers (the other being the sublime Ute Lemper) in the world? It mystifies me.

Fresh from a two-week gig at the Oak Room of the Algonquin, Akers performed her latest show, "When a Lady Loves" (which she said she really wanted to name "Love Songs--Get Over it"), featuring songs by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Stephen Sondheim, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, and other classic American composers. She vamped with "You've Got Possibilities," clowned with "I'm the Laziest Gal in Town" and "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love," and sang the best version of "They Can't Take That Away From Me" that I've ever heard, and I've heard many. Her final encore was the same one she sang for her previous show, "Theatre Songs"--"Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien," made famous, of course, by Edith Piaf. It was worth the price of the ticket just to hear that one song.

It saddens me not only that so many music-lovers do not take advantage of hearing someone as wonderful as Akers, but also that the time is approaching when we hear someone of reasonable intelligence say "Who is Gershwin?" I had an experience a few years ago that really brought this possibility home: A music-loving woman in her early thirties asked me who I thought was the greatest female singer of all time, and I replied, without hesitating, "Judy Garland." She looked blank, and then said, "She sang? I thought she was actress."


Bernard Shaw was right... youth IS wasted on the young.

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