The Loser's Lounge started off inauspiciously enough -- a loosely knit group of Gotham power-pop and roots-rock stalwarts getting together in Andy Hardy fashion to regale an inner circle of friends with tunes drawn from the catalog of a single iconic artist. Fifteen years on, the basic concept hasn't changed, but the scale most assuredly has, as evidenced by this three-night anniversary blowout devoted to one of the crew's most regular honorees, Burt Bacharach.
The Loser’s Lounge started off inauspiciously enough — a loosely knit group of Gotham power-pop and roots-rock stalwarts getting together in Andy Hardy fashion to regale an inner circle of friends with tunes drawn from the catalog of a single iconic artist. Fifteen years on, the basic concept hasn’t changed, but the scale most assuredly has, as evidenced by this three-night anniversary blowout devoted to one of the crew’s most regular honorees, Burt Bacharach.
The composer has picked up something of a hipster cachet in recent years, but the Losers were on the case long before the bandwagon got rolling, approaching the material with nary a shred of the irony endemic in the mid-’90s. That approach made this evening a breezy success thanks in good part to the feather-light touch employed by ringleader Joe McGinty’s Kustard Kings, who skirted the edge of lounge territory to create a gossamer soft-pop backdrop for the parade of guest vocalists.
Since Bacharach did some of his best work in conjunction with female singers, it wasn’t surprising that most of this program’s highlights came from the distaff side. Mary Lee Kortes crafted a gorgeously plangent version of “Alfie,” her voice radiating through the melody like a sunrise cutting through a seaside layer of fog. Natalie Weiss painted a subtly swinging version of the “Wishin’ and Hopin’ ” in similarly wistful but palpably more vivid tones.
The band locked into Bacharach’s easy, syncopated grooves with aplomb — no mean feat, given the composer’s odd sense of meter and purposefully off-kilter phrasing — lending a lovely lilt to “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” (which Michal the Girl delivered in endearingly pixie-ish manner). They did just as well with a brace of obscurities such as the ’70s TV theme “Bond Street.”
Unlike the Losers’ forays into the work of more standard pop-rock acts — they’ve tackled everyone from the Kinks to Love to Abba — Bacharach offered comparatively few peaks and valleys to traverse. But even though the road they traveled on this evening was smooth, it was scenic enough that ennui never entered the picture.
Loser's Lounge 15th Anniversary: Tribute to Burt Bacharach
Singers: Mark Rinzel, Natalie Weiss, Matthew Caws, Wendy Ip, Tom Clark, Alice Cohen, Mary Lee Kortes, Gary Thomas, Michal the Girl, Jedediah Parish, Tricia Scotti, Mike Fornatale, Terhune, Katia Floreska, Seth Berkowitz, Blythe Gruda, Marit Bergman, Joe Hurley, Julian Maile.