By Andrew Poretz . . .
When a young singer named Lindsay Lavin sang a stunning rendition of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” at “The Lineup with Susie Mosher” at Birdland the other week and announced an entire show of Beatles songs at The Green Room 42, there was no doubt that Theater Pizzazz had to be there.
Dressed casually chic in jeans, a midriff-baring black top and glittery silver shoes, Lavin has an appealing presence. She was visibly thrilled to be performing to a fairly full house of friends, family and fans, along with a sizeable livestream audience. Lavin grew up in a family obsessed with The Beatles. “We prayed to the gods of John, Paul, George and Ringo.” Her school, we learned, even had a Beatles ensemble! The family would regularly have singalongs, and, as a child, Lindsay dreamed of one day having a performing family band.
Lavin, with the help of musical director and accompanist Jody Shelton, compiled an album’s worth of Beatles songs, many with fresh takes, and harmonies that were not married to those of the Beatles’ recordings. Kicking off with “I’ve Got to Get You into My Life,” Lavin was accompanied by only the grand piano and an acoustic guitar, with some harmonies by Shelton.
Lavin’s entire family was present, and she showed a brief, vintage iPhone video of her family singing “Here, There and Everywhere,” a very sweet moment. With a very spare arrangement at first featuring only a solo guitar, her loving rendition was touching.
For “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” Lavin invited her brother Danny to the stage to join in on guitar in a surprise appearance. There were good harmonies here, different from the Beatles’ version. This was, for Lavin, a small realization of the family Beatles band. For the medley of “Yesterday” and “Let it Be” that followed, she invited the audience to participate in the family singalong tradition.
The show truly lived up to its “Unplugged” title with an acoustic version of “Helter Skelter,” a song some consider the birth of “heavy metal.” In Lavin’s rendition, one could discern echoes of Paul McCartney’s innocent childhood memory of the Liverpool amusement slide that is overwhelmed in the Beatles’ recording (and so tragically misinterpreted by Charles Manson). Similarly, an arrangement of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” based on George Harrison’s demo of his song, put the focus on the lyrics, rather than the iconic guitar solo made famous by Eric Clapton’s guest spot on the White Album.
At long last, Lavin arrived at the song that brought this reviewer to the show, “Blackbird.” Rather than have Basom copy McCartney’s guitar work, Shelton played those Bach-based chords on piano, while Basom instead played a fine lead counterpoint. Lavin sang the song slowly, with a soulful, bluesy feel.
An inventive mashup of “Good Day, Sunshine,” “I’ll Follow the Sun” and George Harrison’s “Here Come the Sun” was superlative. Shelton’s harmonies blended beautifully with Lavin’s vocals.
During the encore song, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” Danny’s two adorable young children came to the stage, revealing another generation of the Lavin Family Beatles saga.
Lindsay Lavin has a promising future on the New York cabaret scene. She has a lovely voice and a sweet, compelling presence. Surprisingly, perhaps out of nerves, Lavin often looked to the music stand for the lyrics. This was the only weak spot in an otherwise strong performance by this young performer.
Musical director and accompanist: Jody Shelton
Guitar: Tim Basom
All songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, except where indicated.
Lindsay Lavin – February 28, 2022
The Beatles Unplugged
The Green Room 42
At The Hotel Yotel
570 Tenth Avenue, NYC