Last August, Natalie Cole debuted the live version of her tribute to her late dad at the Universal Amphitheatre. Eleven months, several Grammys and a couple million copies of her Elektra album “Unforgettable” later, she’s back, across town at the Greek. The show’s the same–musical, classy–but it’s also different.
Those who saw the Universal performance will recognize the decor: Greek columns, drapes, and a 30-plus-piece orchestra clad in white jackets.
Cole still pays tribute to her dad Nat King Cole to the exclusion of her own earlier hits; this time around, the set’s been expanded by several numbers and the singer is considerably more comfortable with the material and a style that’s far removed from her own funky roots. Nat King Cole recorded hundreds of songs; his daughter should be able to flog this particular horse as long as she cares to bask in her father’s considerable shadow.
Songs this time around included material written and/or introduced by Nat Cole, standards repopularized by him and songs–like Ella Fitzgerald’s 1938 “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”–that he doubtless heard somewhere down the line.
Natalie Cole doesn’t sound particularly like her father; indeed, she scatted a couple of times like Fitzgerald, whom she also doesn’t much resemble vocally. Hers is an attractive voice, warm and on pitch, and it’s a pleasure to hear.
One can’t fault the material, either, when it includes the likes of “Almost Like Being in Love,””This Can’t Be Love,””It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.” If some of the tunes, like “Route 66,””Mona Lisa” and “Unforgettable,” are a bit too familiar, try to think of a Nat Cole tribute without them.
Musical settings varied from full orchestra to rhythm section to Cole’s version of “Mona Lisa” backed by John Chiodini’s warm guitar.
Singer seems equally able on rhythm songs and ballads. Her patter was revealing and often witty; sound balance was warm and clear.
Near-capacity audience on first of two nights (following a night at the Pacific Amphitheater) was restrained but appreciative during 75-minute set.
Opener Ottmar Liebert is Santa Fe-based acoustic guitarist specializing in what’s come to be known as “new-age flamenco.” After several albums for indie Higher Octave label, he’s now signed to Sony Music’s Epic label, and his “Solo Para Ti” album has crested the new-age charts.
Greek set was all instrumental, with Liebert not bothering to introduce individual selections; not, indeed, bothering to say anything at all until he introduced members of his band.
Music, Latin-styled noodling, was pleasant to listen to, and audience response demanded an encore, which the guitarist wouldn’t (or wasn’t allowed to) give. Set was half an hour, shorter by 10 minutes than the intermission between his set and Cole’s.