Review: ‘Keely Smith’

The lightning and storms that filled the Los Angeles night failed to top the energy Keely Smith put forth at Feinstein's. Opening with the raucous and swinging "Let the Good Times Roll," the 75-year-old Smith held court mostly with material from the subtly ingenious "Swing, Swing, Swing" from 2000 and this year's "Keely Swings Basie-Style."

The lightning and storms that filled the Los Angeles night failed to top the energy Keely Smith put forth at Feinstein’s. Opening with the raucous and swinging “Let the Good Times Roll,” the 75-year-old Smith held court mostly with material from the subtly ingenious “Swing, Swing, Swing” from 2000 and this year’s “Keely Swings Basie-Style,” both on the Concord label.

Smith is arguably the only female singer who was comfortable hanging with the testosterone-saturated Rat Pack. And she is one of the last of a generation of “lounge singers” who instinctively involve audiences through comfortable chatter and campy banter, all the while interpreting a spectrum of songs that included Doris Day’s mid-’50s hit “It’s Magic,” Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Smith was at full strength on the soft and melodic offerings “Mr. Wonderful,” “Mood Indigo” and Gloria Lynn’s understated masterpiece “I Wish You Love.”

Wednesday, she played up her own stormy relationship with Louis Prima throughout the one-hour and 15-minute set — “He was wonderful and sexy. I did not know he was ugly until we got divorced” — and delivered the Prima/Smith hits “Robin Hood,” “Oh Babe,” “Hey Louie,” “Just a Gigolo” and “Jump, Jive an’ Wail.”

Her voice is still flexible enough to carry challenging arrangements. Yes, the ravages of age limit her to a flick of the wrists to accent musical points in song, but she is still a force of nature that rivals any storm.

Keely Smith

Feinstein's at the Cinegrill; 140 seats; $35

Production

Presented inhouse. Reviewed Nov. 12, 2003.

Cast

Band: Keely Smith, Dennis Michaels, Sal Lozano, Pete Christlieb, Carl Saunders, Frank Szabo, Steve Barnes, Kenny Wild, David Wilborn, Andy Martin.
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