Ute Lemper returns to the cushy confines of the Cafe Carlyle, bringing with her a warming sense of deja vu. With imagery of prewar Berlin and Paris back streets, Lemper offers a heady mix of glamour, truth and illusion in her repertoire of theater and art songs. The lean, sultry chanteuse plants her hands on her hips, brandishes a red feather boa, and invests her songs with theatrical flair, studied nuance and clarity.
For a warming dose of continental allure, Lemper recalls a time when the world stood still as she sings the trenchant wartime reflection “Lili Marlene” in German. Comparisons to Marlene Dietrich come easily. Singing in French, the “Little Sparrow” is remembered with “L’accordeoniste” and Edith Piaf’s classic “Milord,” which Lemper sings with aggressive, feverish abandon.
The warning aftershock of still “another vodka stinger” is given a lethal serving with Stephen Sondheim’s toast to “The Ladies Who Lunch.”
Popular on Variety
Pivotal medley is a group of moon songs that Lemper introduces as “a song from the old days — one more time!” From the timeless allure of “Bilbao Moon” to Sting’s bluesy “Moon Over Bourbon Street,” plus Harold Arlen’s “Paper Moon” and Tom Waits’ “Grapefruit Moon,” it’s an astronomically heady blend of starry-eyed lunar seduction. Van Morrison’s “Moon Dance” puts it all into proper perspective.
A soupcon of Kurt Weill is offered with the infectious ode to “Pirate Jenny” and tempts the audience to return Thursday evenings when Lemper presents her alternate program, “A Walk on the Weill Side.” Her Weill collections on CD remain definitive interpretations of his oeuvre.
Closer is a warming homage to the late Fred Ebb. In a medley from “Cabaret,” the role of Sally Bowles fits Lemper like a glove or, better yet, a black bowler.
Lemper’s mix of glamour and sophistication is an irresistibly classy invitation to journey back in time.