It was not your grandmother’s cabaret act.
Singer Storm Large dragged that form of entertainment into the 21st century at McDavid Studio on Friday with a show that often dazzled and always entertained.
The 45-year-old vocalist is probably best known for two achievements: making an impressive showing on the CBS talent competition Rock Star: Supernova in 2006, and performing with the hip ensemble Pink Martini a great deal since.
But Friday, she was fronting her own four-piece band while seducing, charming and wowing a small but appreciative audience with a wide range of material that showcased her fabulously flexible voice.
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The key to her success was her amazing ability to combine a torch singer’s approach with a Broadway belter’s power. To give you a frame of reference, she looked like Lindsay Lohan, talked like Chelsea Handler and sang like a cross between a diva and your favorite female rocker. And she did all this while reinventing the concept of the cabaret show.
Large (and Storm Large is her birth name, by the way) opened her set with Cole Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin. That’s typical cabaret show fare. But Large, clad in a slinky green gown that hugged her curves like a fast car, took a dark and desperate approach to the classic tune that gave it a whole new life. She followed with a couple more classics by Porter and Jacques Brel before sliding into covers of much more contemporary singers, songwriters and bands, including Tom Waits, Rod Stewart, Cheap Trick and Black Sabbath. But no matter how familiar the numbers were (all of us have heard Stay With Me more than a few times), Large and her band put a fresh face on them.
In between tunes, the barefoot Large engaged in easy, humorous and somewhat naughty banter that endeared her to the crowd almost as effectively as her singing. She frequently admonished herself to “keep it clean” before inevitably failing to do so.
It was a joy to see and, thanks to McDavid sound man Doug Kirk, it was a delight to hear. Large brought a grand voice to a small room, and Kirk made it fit while also keeping the contributions of the band (including the outstanding drumming of Greg Eklund) exactly where they needed to be in relation to the vocals.