Michael Feinstein With LO SuperPops

By Jean Ebel

Singer and pianist Michael Feinstein brought his array of American pop songs to Louisville on April 9 in a special SuperPops concert with the Louisville Orchestra at Louisville Gardens. After becoming the darling of the cabaret circuit in the 1980s, Feinstein has gained a following for his best selling albums, which include Pure Gershwin, Michael Feinstein Sings Irving Berlin, and his latest release, Pure Imagination.

Feinstein's performance concentrated on the great treasury of American show tunes and pre-1950s pop songs, featuring songs by such composers as George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Burton Lane, Sammy Kahn, Jerry Herman and other celebrated composers of Broadway and Hollywood.

While Feinstein's vocal skills may leave something to be desired, few performers can so quickly endear themselves to an audience. His love for the songs of a bygone era is readily apparent as he performs them with a clear focus on the lyrics to emphasize their meaning. Although Feinstein performs old favorites, he lovingly imbues them with his own interpretative style — all of which makes them come alive in a unique way.

Opening with "That's Entertainment," he lent a new twist by delivering a gentle version that caressed each word. From his vast repertoire of Irving Berlin tunes, Feinstein performed a spirited "Puttin' on the Ritz" as well as "Alexander's Ragtime Band," Berlin's first big hit, composed in 1911. He also sang classics like "A Most Unusual Day" and "How About You? I Like New York in June."

Each song was introduced by a historical, and often humorous, anecdote that not only betrayed Feinstein's sincere devotion to his work, but immediately established him an intimate connection with the audience, who responded enthusiastically.

While Feinstein may have limited appeal for the younger crowd, his beautifully polished performance provided a nostalgic lift of the American music culture of yesteryear. His passion for the work of past masters has not only revived their glory, but has also ensured their preservation for future generations.

The first half of the concert was solely devoted to a performance by the Louisville Orchestra, ably conducted by George-Albert Schram. The program featured Dvorak's "Slavonic Dance No. 8," Offenbach's "Can Can," and Ginastera's "Malambo" from Estancia.