Karen Oberlin – His Aim Is True: The Singular Songs of Elvis Costello

 

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by: Joe Regan Jr.

 

Karen Oberlin, who has won almost every award in the cabaret world and whose previous well received shows were tribute shows to Doris Day, Frank Loesser, E. Y. Harburg, and who has done duo shows with Steve Ross, Miles Phillips, Sean Harkness, and T. Oliver Reid, has chosen to select Elvis Costello as her new tribute show. The title of the show is “His Aim Is True: The Singular Songs of Elvis Costello” and Oberlin tells us right away that her music director/arranger Tedd Firth is a big fan of Elvis Costello, as are the rest of her musicians, Steve Doyle on bass and Harkness on guitar. The fourth performance was sold out with many other cabaret artists and critics there that night.

I actually became aware of Elvis Costello as a song writer – performer when he was part of Lincoln Center’s Summer Music Festival and did a concert at Avery Fisher which also included many videos.

Oberlin, looking stunningly mature in a black dress, tells us she fell in love with Costello as a young girl when his first album came out and she dreamed of meeting him at a party and gazing into his eyes and they would marry and live happily ever after. She never met him but talks about his life and how his music always changed. The first song is, appropriately, “Man Out of Time” and then we have superb, loud, jazzy versions of “Beyond Belief,” “Every Day I Write the Book,” and “Almost Blue.” There is the rare collaboration with Billy Strayhorn, “My Flame Burns Blue” and, of course, she shows the cover of the book about Strayhorn written by her husband, David Hadju, the man she did marry. There are two Costello/Paul McCartney collaborations, “Mistress and Maid” and “Veronica.” both of which get the full band treatment.

Costello married the singer/pianist Diana Krall and they collaborate on “The Girl In the Other Room,” which Oberlin sings with slight regret. She dreams of a day when she, Hajdu, and her son Nathan will actually meet Costello and Krall and maybe make music together.

Oberlin tells us how Burt Bacharach came out of a 14 year retirement to collaborate with Costello on a movie score. She begins to sing “God Give Me Strength” very sweetly but suddenly stops, saying that is not the way to sing the song, and gets the musicians to redo it in a loud, strong and powerful performance. Oberlin is outstanding in this moment, showing how she has grown as an artist, and how her life has enhanced her art.

There is an encore, “The Birds Will Still Be Singing,” which Costello wrote with the Brodsky String Quartet,” leaving the audience wanting more.

“His Aim Is True: The Singular Songs of Elvis Costello” will be recorded by Miranda Music soon, and it will be a striking album combining Oberlin at her mature best with the great songs of Elvis Costello.

Oberlin will repeat “His Aim Is True: The Singular Songs of Elvis Costello” at Stage 72 at the Triad on Friday, September 25 and Wednesday, September 30, both shows at 7 PM. Reservations are a must. Contact is www.Stage72.com

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