BWW Reviews: Betty Buckley’s ‘Dark Blue-Eyed Blues’ is a Beautifully Rich Experience
By David Clarke
June 2, 2015
Last week, Betty Buckley returned to Joe’s Pub to debut her newest cabaret concert Dark Blue-Eyed Blues. Thrilled to have been recognized as a chanteuse in recent reviews, Buckley programmed the evening to be the “musings of a chanteuse,” packing the set with standards and contemporary hits. The Broadway legend performed with tangible vivacity and charm, making this intimate evening a joy to experience.
Buckley took the stage with a fun and energetic rendition of “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” (Duke Ellington, Bob Russell). She chased that performance with a sauntering rendition of “This Nearly Was Mine” (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II), giving the song new character with her truncated jazz phrasing. After discussing her inspiration for the evening’s set, she came to life with a sparkling but delicately serene version of “La Vie en Rose” (Edith Piaf & Luis Guglielmi) and her flirty “Them There Eyes” (Maceo Pinkard, Doris Tauber & William Tracey), which featured clean patter-like syncopation in her vocal line.
From her latest album, Ghostlight, she treated the audience to her sweetly charismatic version of “Come to Me, Bend to Me” (Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner). Then she shared a vignette from her childhood about dancing as a flower while another girl got to steal the show with her next tune. Buckley made the song her own and filled the venue with her evocative and rich iteration of “Blues in the Night” (Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer). Delivering a masterful take on the blues classic, she expertly worked through the song’s syncopated rhythms and gave an authoritative performance.
Channeling the haunting aura of Ghostlight, Buckley sang a lovey version of “All the Pretty Horses” (traditional American lullaby). Yet, as she moved into “I Get a Kick Out of You” (Cole Porter), she seemed to be losing steam. The arrangement began slowed, but picked up tempo for the chorus. It then slowed again for the second verse. While somewhat novel, this approach to the well-known show tune did not improve it, and the drive of the concert lagged around the piece. To follow it Buckley enthusiastically sang a heavy hearted rendition of “Sophisticated Lady” (Duke Ellington, Irving Mills & Mitchell Parish).
A keen medley of “Where’s That Rainbow,” “Spring is Here,” and “Falling in Love with Love” (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart) recaptured the audience’s attention as Buckley sang with tangible heartache and stirring power. Tackling a cut song from The Last Ship, Buckley delivered a lush version of “Practical Arrangement” (Sting & Rob Mathes). With absurdly effective melancholic power and tears streaming down her eyes, she bewitched the audience with “Too Many Memories” (Stephen Bruton).
Beginning to close the concert, Buckley’s version of “Bird on a Wire” (Leonard Cohen) was beautifully elegiac. Her “I’m Still Here” (Stephen Sondheim) was divinely stunning. In her hands, the cherished song from Follies was absolutely perfect. Her encore was a heartfelt and gorgeous iteration of “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell), which also left tears streaming down her cheeks.
Arranger Christian Jacob led the capable band on piano. Oz Noy on guitar gave the music lovely melodies. Tony Marino on bass and Todd Isler on drums provided beats that spoke to the heart and conveyed the emotions of each song.
If you missed Buckley at Joe’s Pub, be sure to catch her in Grey Gardens this summer at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, New York.