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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reddy, Willing and Able!

Helen Reddy arrived in New York with her five-man band, onstage at B. B. King's, with the exact same vocal range she had 40 years ago when she topped the charts, undiminished by time at a nimble 71 years of age.  In a tunic-styled white blouse with black print, black slacks, and what appeared to be high-heeled sandals (plus a slight variation on her '70s hairdo), she captured our hearts from the start of her 90-minute performance.

Her first song, "The Stars Fell on California," received what seemed like non-stop applause. Ms Reddy seemed touched, giggling "I'm in New York!" She later allowed that, after tonight's show, she would be staying in NYC awhile to see shows and get together with friends. NYC hopes she will come back very soon to perform again...  and to enjoy our town as much as our town enjoyed her tonight.

The star turned her back on show business a decade ago to become a psychoanalyst and motivational speaker in Australia. Last year, she sang at her half-sister's birthday party and thought, "That's not bad!" Thankfully, she was self-motivated to return to the stage.

When I told people I was going to see Helen Reddy, a few said, "I hope she sings 'Snowbird'." Errr..., well that was Anne Murray. Right decade, wrong diva. Helen did the song "Bluebird," however, as part of tonight's set.

"Anybody here who saw last night's show?" she asked. There was a raise of hands amongst the crowd. "Well," said the diva, "You're going to see the same show tonight."

Helen Reddy came from show-business parents which was evidenced in her soft shoe with bravado twirls and hand gestures borrowed from vaudeville days. She had an easy, breezy style. Her patter was clever and warm. She obviously felt no need to finish most songs with a belt, saving that for rare best effect but generally ending on a mellow note.

There were male cries of "fabulous!" at tonight's show, and Helen acknowledged her trans-generational gay fans. To one adoring fan, she said, "I like you! Are you married? Oh, you're married to him! Love makes the world go round!"

One song that the singer refused to do was "Leave Me Alone," though that request was shouted out near the show's end. "Oh, no," she replied, "How interesting is 'Leave me alone, I said leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone, I said leave me alone, leave me alone, I said leave me'...? Not brilliant songwriting."

Ms Reddy did, however, perform a satisfying medley of her hits, "Delta Dawn" and "No Way to Treat a Lady," and saved one of her best remembered numbers for her encore. "Here is a 40-year-old poem," she said, reciting: "I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore...." It was a striking moment to hear the well-known lyrics dramatically spoken as poetry before she segued into the entire anthemic number, "I Am Woman."

The psychoanalyst in her posited tonight's rendition of her hit, "Angie Baby," as a song left to interpretation and a possible aural Rorschach-test ending.

Ms Reddy's set also consisted of songs by Paul Williams, Don McLean and fellow Aussie, the late Peter Allen. From the musical, Cinderella Liberty, she sang "Nice to Be Around." Helen reminded us of her acting credits in the plays Blood Brothers (on Broadway, West End and in Australia) and Shirley Valentine. And she graced us with "I Am a Best Friend of Myself," a self-described "song of self-esteem" she penned as a Psych major at UCLA.

Helen Reddy's second encore was the lovely and closing-appropriate 1952 standard by Alan Brandt and Bob Haymes, "That's All." She left the stage in the roar and applause of a packed house. "Say it's me that you'll adore for now and ever more...."  Helen, it looks like you've got that from your audience. Come back to us!

Below, a YouTube video of Helen Reddy at BB King's Saturday show:

1 comment:

  1. Turning out to be a motivational speaker from an actor is really very appreciable thing. Dedicating the life as a Motivational Speaker I feel so much of responsibility on my shoulder. Thanks a lot for posting this article about Helen Reddy.

    Mark Duin
    Motivational Speaker