Campy Ode to Film Noir and a Twist on Politics
Stephen Holden, The New York Times
Amanda McBroom performed at the Metropolitan Room on Thursday.
Her new show, “Noir,” at the Metropolitan Room, plays lightly with film noir images and archetypes. And on Thursday evening, she and her gifted longtime pianist and songwriting collaborator, Michele Brourman, wore matching black outfits to illustrate the theme. Ms. McBroom went out of her way to name Barbara Stanwyck as the queen of film noir and to cite “Clash by Night” as her favorite example of the genre.
What sets Ms. McBroom apart from everyone else is her voice, a forceful, flexible pop contralto, which she wields with the skill of an archer to hit the emotional bull’s-eye. She is one of the foremost interpreters of Jacques Brel, and her fierce performance of “La Chanson des Vieux Amants” (in her own English translation) extracted the quivering marrow of a song about marriage, aging, resignation and the weary love that persists through betrayal, boredom and intimacy grown stale.
Ms. McBroom can be very funny. And the show was punctuated with comic zingers. To the list of commonplace falsehoods in David Frishberg’s viciously amusing “Blizzard of Lies” (“Your secret’s safe with me/This is a real good deal”), she inserted “I am not a witch.” “Monica,” a recent collaboration with Joel Silberman, was a humorously plaintive call for the return of Monica Lewinsky, who in today’s poisonous political climate symbolizes a period of relative innocence.
If anyone could be called the successor to Barbara Cook in interpretive insight and in conveying a steadfast resilience with a core of optimism, it is Ms. McBroom. Ms. Cook has sung several McBroom songs, including “Ship in a Bottle” and “Errol Flynn,” a portrait of Ms. McBroom’s father, who appeared in Flynn movies. They have similar sensibilities: both are adult singers who address the complexity of grown-up life with unflinching honesty and faith. Vocal healers, if you will, they are in it for the long haul.
Amanda McBroom performs through Saturday at the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, Manhattan; (212) 206-0440.
A version of this review appeared in print on October 23, 2010, on page C7 of the New York edition.