By Eric J. Grimm
Cabaret mainstay Maxine Linehan pivots from the Great American Songbook to the Irish rock songbook in her new show at Feinstein’s/54 Below, One: The Songs of U2, directed by Scott Siegel. Linehan has steadily grown to be one of cabaret’s best-known names, becoming a more comfortable and open performer over the past three years. With frequent collaborators Siegel and musical director Ryan Shirar, Linehan has presented a set list that celebrates her New York and Irish identities, peeling back layers from one of the community’s more reserved performers.
Linehan has opted for mostly well-known hits from U2’s repertoire, showcasing a solid vocal range throughout. “Pride (In The Name of Love)” shows off the clean belting that makes her a musical theater favorite and displays how well she rises to the challenge of shrinking down stadium anthems without losing their rousing nature in the low-ceilinged basement of Studio 54. If Linehan seemed perhaps too much of a mystery in her 2014 solo show, An American Journey, the songs of U2 have given her the courage to share more of herself and engage with her own personal history. Her introduction to and interpretation of “Where the Streets Have No Name” present a woman who strives to be not easily categorized.
A slowed down version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” features her husband Andrew Koss on an Irish bouzouki guitar and has a careful sweetness that doesn’t play too much into U2’s more maudlin songwriting tendencies. Some of the band’s moldier efforts like NYC anthem “Angel of Harlem” and “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” could stand to be trimmed from the list in favor of some deeper cuts, but Linehan’s U2 fandom mostly serves her well here, encouraging her to be an ever more gracious performer.
Maxine Linehan’s One: The Songs of U2 played at 54 Below September 15th and October 13th.