By Brian Scott Lipton . . .
While I had never gotten to see Seth Sikes before, his reputation of loving standards, especially those belonging to the late, great Judy Garland, gave me some hint that his show “Seth Sikes Sings the ‘20s, Etc,” which marked the singer’s long-awaited return to Feinstein’s/54 Below on October 20, was not going to find this attractive young performer showcasing the work of Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift or Adele.
Nonetheless, what I wasn’t prepared for was how many other young people (and I mean young, especially by my 61-year-old standards) would revel so heartily in hearing Sikes perform tunes from their grandparents’ (or even great-grandparents’) generation – bouncing up and down and clapping along in their chairs to such tuneful if slightly silly ditties as “Toot Toot Tootsie,” “We’re in the Money,” “I Don’t Care,” “Tiger Rag,” and “I Wanna Be Loved by You.”
Moreover, given that practically every person in the room was able to sing along perfectly to “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine,” (from Show Boat) it was clear Sikes has found a lot of kindred spirits. In fact, the entire 70-minute show often felt like one giant party (possibly one being held on a very gay cruise ship) with the ever-amiable Sikes acting as host, raconteur and headlining entertainer (backed by an extraordinary seven piece-band.)
Sikes readily admitted that he originally intended this show, which was set to debut last year, was intended to celebrate 2020 as the best year ever — but, given how that played out, he wasn’t going to stick only to the songs of the 1920s. Nor did he stick to the original lyrics of some of his selections: “Don’t Bring Lulu” became “Don’t Bring Molly” (if I have to explain that reference to you, forget it) and “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee” became “Waiting for the Patti LuPone.”
For all the frivolity on hand, Sikes’ strong, belting voice often felt best suited to ballads, especially 1961’s heart-wrenching “What Now My Love” (a huge hit for everyone from Elvis Presley to Shirley Bassey), Jerry Herman’s gorgeous “Time Heals Everything” (from the 1974 musical Mack & Mabel), Rodgers & Hart’s rueful 1930 classic “He Was Too Good to Me” (later popularized by Nina Simone and Bette Midler, among others) and Irving Berlin’s yearning 1930 masterpiece “Let Me Sing (And I’m Happy).”
True, he could have given more depth to the lyrics of these brilliant songs – in fact, the entire evening came up a bit short in the emotional resonance department. However, one sensed Sikes never really wanted to bring any of us down too far. And let’s face it, with 2020 still visible in the rear-view mirror, we’ve all been through enough already.
Seth Sikes Sings the ‘20s, Etc… also featured Matt Aument – Piano;Alphonso Horne – Trumpet; Michael Breaux – Reeds; Vince Giordano – Bass; Justin Rothberg – Banjo; Mike Lunoe – Drums; and Rachel Handman – Violin
Photo Credit: Stephen Mosher