REVIEW: The only complaint any Frank Sinatra or "Rat Pack" fans could have had about last night's performance by Nick Clothier and the Hoboken Symphony Orchestra at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival was that it did not go on longer. In a set that fell well short of two hours it was barely possible to scratch the surface of material made famous by Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., still less when the repertoire also referenced the hits of Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne.
There are far worse sins than leaving your audience wanting more. Clothier got the essentials right, never stooping to impersonation. Reasoning that neither he nor anyone else could credibly pretend to be Ole Blue Eyes, he settled for being himself, employing a fine, sweet voice and offering versions of standards that showed respect for the original material without trying to replicate things note for note. At times the results were sublime. Stormy Weather was a particular standout as was a superb rendition of the quintessential Sinatra "saloon song" One for My Baby (and one more for the Road).
Clothier's easy manner behind the microphone in between songs was another bonus. Feeling no need to embrace the Rat Pack's at times boorish stage manner he didn't deconstruct it, either. If pedants could complain about some of the introductory information taking liberties with the truth - Louis Armstrong described as a contemporary of the Pack when he was more a forerunner and indirect influence - Clothier's schtick was altogether more relaxed and amusing than Sinatra himself ever managed. I particularly enjoyed his minimalist introduction to One for My Baby: "this song is about using alcohol to cure a broken heart". Sinatra used to talk for about five minutes, skirting around this theme, before finally delivering.
Unsurprisingly, The Hoboken Symphony Orchestra turned out to be neither from Hoboken nor a symphony orchestra. If they weren't quite a big band in the Count Basie vein either they certainly had sufficient power in the horn section to produce the goods. Their leader and pianist also proved his vocal mettle in a charming and warm homage to the Sinatra/Davis duet Me and My Shadow, albeit one happily free of the racial subtext that haunted the original number.
Opening with the song that gave the gig its name and closing with a slightly under rehearsed if suitably up tempo and rousing New York, New York, the concert was a delightful dream come true for Hamilton Sinatra fans. No one was having more fun than Mr Clothier, of course. That he let us into his performance fantasy - swinging on I've Got You Under My Skin and Ain't That a Kick in the Head and doing a credible Armstrong tribute with What a Wonderful World - was cause for celebration.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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