Singin’ ’60s

Liz Callaway
Feinstein’s at Loews Regency
Through June 28

As usual, when it comes to value received for money spent, the music scene surpasses the movies. At Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, glorious jazz diva Ann Hampton Callaway’s younger, shorter and equally talented sister Liz is knocking their socks off. A veteran of Broadway show tunes and classy concert halls, she has chosen, for reasons of self-satisfaction only she can explain, to celebrate the pop tunes of the 1960s. She calls this cabaret whim “The Beat Goes On” and as Fats Domino used to chide at the Peppermint Lounge, “It do, babe, it sho’nuff do.”

Sipping from the trough of music from the worst period in music history is not my cup of tea. It was the time of flower power, electric antiwar dirges, burning bras, love beads, psychedelic clothes, moon walks and Sonny and Cher. I hardly remember it vaguely, much less well, but Ms. Callaway is so compelling she actually freshens up, renovates and forges new ideas into old songs made famous by the Beatles, Petula Clark, Simon and Garfunkel, John Denver, Pete Seeger and the Beach Boys. She has the nerve to admit the first LP she ever purchased was Hair, then proceeds to sing a song from its horrible, dated score. She’s hip and sharp and supersonically talented enough to make it work. From a contemplative “Eleanor Rigby” and a jaunty “Downtown” audience singalong, to a passionate “Didn’t We” that rocks the crown moldings on the Regency ceiling, she really makes the corn work and the period come alive. There’s a lot of Jimmy Webb. An irresistible “Up, Up, and Away” is a highlight, and when she fills the midsection of one song with a few stanzas from the ossified “MacArthur Park,” she omits the “left the cake out in the rain” part. Bravo for that.

Her voice has clarity, volume (which she uses only when it enhances a lyric) and awesome breath control. Alex Rybeck, her pianist, musical conductor and backup singer, exercises his usual taste in arrangements and derangements, milking the finger-popping melodies for all they’re worth. I arrived skeptical and left happy. The beat goes on, all right, and Liz Callaway is leading the band with her own baton.

rreed@observer.com

Singin’ ’60s