On April 9, Lea DeLaria brought the house down in two shows at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) Chase Room. The floor-to ceiling-windows render the space reminiscent of a miniature version of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Rose Theater Appel Room and the cabaret style seating assured everyone had a great view of the headliner.
Lea’s band included the dazzling Chris Ziemba on piano, super-cool Dylan Shamat on bass, and the powerful Aaron Kimmel on drums. Kicking off with “Welcome to my Party,” Lea took the stage immediately, then captivated us with a swing version of “I Live the Life I Love and I Love the Life I Live.” What more natural segue could there be from there into an inspired comic rant against the Donald, a highlight of which was Lea suggesting that the wall be built around Trump Tower, where the Donald could let down his comb over when he wanted company! Her rumination on finally having a Trophy Wife as First Lady had everyone in tears.
From there, it was Rodgers and Hart’s classic “Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You” that featured Lea scat singing, while playing her mic stand like a clarinet. Remember, her father was a jazz pianist, so she grew up surrounded by the music of the greats who were moving and shaking in jazz–she’s got jazz in her blood and bones and you can feel it when you hear her sing.
Many of the audience members may not have been aware of her recently released CD “House of David: delaria+bowie=jazz,” a compendium of covers of some of David Bowie’s biggest hits. Released more than a year ago, David was not only aware of her effort, but had posted Lea’s funding site on his. He heard what she’d done and loved it. She gave us jazz versions of “Boys Keep It Swinging,” including a quote from the Beatles “A Day in the Life,” “Fame” with a brilliant solo by Chris on piano, a humanistic “Major Tom” that is brilliant and, during “Let’s Dance,” I couldn’t keep a happy smile off my face. But then, why would I? Chris got another solo, as did Aaron, and “Starman” was especially moving again featuring Chris and Aaron. “Life on Mars” had more punch in this performance where it seemed almost a political statement—“take a look at that lawman beating up the wrong guy”—where on the album it’s a story told in an observational look-at-life à la Simon and Garfunkel. Both are pure beauty.
The final song of the evening was Lea’s swing version of “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd.” She spoke of how Stephen Sondheim generally doesn’t like what people do to his music–drives him crazy. When she performed it at a Lincoln Center event, she was thrilled when he came backstage. Not only did he love it—and if you’ve heard it then you know why—he also said “call me Steve!” Rock ON!
Listen to Lea for her voice. Listen for her interpretation. Listen for her innate musicality and sense of tone. She claimed she had a cold when we heard her, but her inner ear was just fine–spot on, perfectly blue on the bends and everything you’d want for a swinging date night with cocktails, dinner and the very best in live music–it was an evening to catch fire.
What? You don’t have “House of David: delaria+bowie=jazz?” Get thee to a website and download it or order the CD. I say, order the CD–you’ll want to have Lea sign it when YOU go see her! Check out her latest everything at www.leadelaria.com–
and you’ll be DeLaria-us, too!