REVIEW: Liza Minnelli, Michael Feinstein enchant at Segerstrom 5

Music · Reviews

I never saw Judy Garland in performance. I was fifteen in 1969 when she last played in Copenhagen. Now I wish I had gone. But Saturday night, I got a frisson of that Garland feeling, when in a first, I attended Liza Minnelli’s show at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The legendary singer delivered a tremendous concert, touching the humanity of all present. She sang and pattered, utterly at home, sharing the big Segerstrom stage with her good friend, Michael Feinstein. The chivalrous Feinstein had quadruple duty as a singer, jokester, accompanist, and diva-handler throughout the evening.

Dressed in signature black, and seated center stage due to a back injury, Minnelli made reference to her mother throughout the evening, calling her ‘mama.’ She even belted an anthem along that theme, “God Bless the Child,” which her mother, as well as Billie Holiday, had as a torch song. Garland was present not only in projected family photos and in Minnelli’s amusing memory of her mother’s direct advice, “Dance!” (as opposed to “Sing!) It was manifest in the peculiar adulation — that special bond with an audience — a rapt, holy attentiveness as she trod through her repertoire. It surfaced in her brilliant, skillful way of telling a tale through song that is a direct inheritance from Judy Garland.

Minnelli’s voice was uneven. She had some workarounds but even her gulping down Gatorade could not patch the missing bits. Similar to a potholed freeway, however, if you watched the bumps, it still got you there. She was utterly at home, magical, in her half-spoken rendition of Charles Aznavour’s “You’ve Let Yourself Go.” The chanteuse delivered the humorous patois tongue-in-cheek, as every lyric about decadence and decay could apply to herself as well. She honored her father, Vincente Minnelli, by singing “What Did I Have?” from On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, a movie he directed. She honored her godmother, Kay Thompson, in an upbeat number sung with Feinstein, who, absent Marvin Hamlisch, is our go-to expert on the American Songbook. Peerless when self-accompanying at the piano, left on his own, swinging before a three-piece back-up group, much less so. He could use some movement training. He can be dull to watch. And hear.

Minnelli hit the bullseye in recalling Cabaret lyricist Fred Ebb advising her: “You have a special gift for telling the truth in song. So find songs that are true for you … and sing them.”

Amen. A great life experience seeing Liza Minnelli in person. And good fun to bump into several Los Angeles friends who made the trek southward for the occasion – to a house that gets the top names and showcases them with glamour.

5 thoughts on “REVIEW: Liza Minnelli, Michael Feinstein enchant at Segerstrom

  1. rpsabq Jan 12,2020 2:11 pm

    Liza will always be a star, but hasn’t been a singer for many years now. Unfortunately the voice goes way before the body. Menopause is hell on the belter. I just hope she doesn’t insist on doing her last show weeks before death in a wheelchair like is so often done. Of course we’ll sell the place out and clap until we hurt, but please don’t make us do it.

  2. Lawrence Raphael Jul 8,2018 12:19 pm

    The Liza Minnelli’s concert recently was received in opposite ways
    By those attending. The mostly older crowd was happy to simply be in her presence. Those who remember the great energetic talent she was, were saddened by the decline time has wrought .
    Overweight. At times clearly short of breath, one waited for her to display at least some of he style and virtuosity as a singer that she is justly worshiped for.
    Alas, it was not to be. The setting took advantage of the casual atmosphere it strove to create,but left us aching for the legend .
    I kept thing of the famous movie line, “I am ready for my closeup Mr Demille”

  3. robert deutsch Jul 4,2018 10:55 am

    A lovely review.. Thnx for sharing.. Not sure I quite agree. I actually did see Judy many times- at least 8 and those were tremendous concerts. Not that its fair to compare. But Judy even at her worst – and I saw her at her best and her worst, was truly spectacular.. keeping you on the edge of your seat, and giving you chills all through your body with every note, every song…both hilariously comedic and tragically dramatic. Liza saturday night was lovely I agree but not in that league by a mile. I’m so happy you enjoyed it and I certainly did. I wish her the best in her struggles and it was endearing to watch her receive all that love from the audience. Til next time.

  4. Heinz-Michael Wolf Jul 3,2018 1:40 pm

    I don’t think Michael Feinstein is dull. I saw a him in a concert and there was not a second you would call dull.

  5. Julie McDonald Jul 2,2018 2:55 pm

    Right on the mark.. I was privileged to see her at the top of her extraordinary craft. The thing that makes you love her so much is her vulnerability. And still it’s so…. Less singing LIza, more talking about your remarkable career and life. She is loved and no longer needs to prove herself.

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