I have seen 40-45 concerts in 2009 and I think I saved the best for last. A number of firsts tonight: first time at Manhattan’s Town Hall venue (think A Mighty Wind, Oprah’s Whitney Houston interview) and my first time to indulge in the living opulence that is Pink Martini. The Portland, Ore.-based “little orchestra” has been a favorite of mine for years, but their concerts have eluded me. For starters, how many venues does this unique ensemble fit? So many instruments it makes my heart pitter-pat! Horns, lush strings, harp, piano, drums, maracas, tin drum, bongos, washboard, triangle, and Pink Martini’s most treasured instrument, the voice of the glorious China Forbes. OMG.
My heart is truly racing as they open with “Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love.” Quintessential Pink Martini, shortly followed by “Anna” and their signature “Sympathique.” I’m intrigued with the dynamics going on on stage, between band leader, pianist and founder Thomas Launderdale and Forbes. They met in 1994 over songs at a piano, and a musical marriage was sealed. I’m seated in the front row (love it) and I’m literally at the foot of the beautiful lead violist Nicholas Crosa and lead cellist, the intense and Louboutin-wearing Pansy Chang (love that name). Chang and Crosa eye one another throughout the show, and Change uses her bow to subtly calm the tapping foot of Crosa. So charming.
My favorite Pink Martini songs were all performed, including “Amado Mio,” “Lilly” and “Hey Eugene.” They performed a song off their fifth studio album, due next year, called “Ushkudar,” a Turkish-inspired ode. I found it funny that they played a song off a future CD before they played anything off their current album, Splendor in the Grass, which dropped in October. But I’m so excited they have another one in the works! That opened the door to their new material including my favorite song, “Over the Valley,” which is about their hometown of Portland, Oregon. Forbes’ stunning vocals are so soft and sweet, and accentuated by an intimate and vulnerable violin solo by Nicholas Crosa. So beautiful. Being so close, I felt like he was playing for me. I could hear him breathe! Seriously, I want them to sing and play me to sleep every night with that song, for the rest of my life!
Other highlights included “Bitty Betty Boppy” about a cross-dressing DA, and guest performer Emilio Delgado of Sesame Street fame! He performed “Amor” with the orchestra, and then was joined by Forbes for “Sing.” You know the song, “Sing. Sing a song. Sing out loud. Sing out strong…” It was written in 1971 for Sesame Street when I was one year old, now covered in 2009 by Pink Martini. Such a throwback to my childhood. I still remember my mother singing that song to me when I was growing up. A sweet and endearing moment for me.
Finally, they close with the soaring “Dosvedanya Mio Bombino,” which made my night, made me smile and even chuckle a little when a hysterically fabulous, yet awkward and odd triangle-player was granted an amazing solo with the ding of her instrument. It’s how the world should be! The encore was “White Christmas” and “Brazil.” What a special evening, and what a perfect way to wind down my 2009 concert run. I’m so lucky to live in New York City and experience the joy of music. Thanks for reading.