Feinstein at the Nikki, San Francisco, CA, May 16, 2018
Who better to celebrate Feinstein’s at the Nikko’s 5th anniversary than the man himself- Michael Feinstein. Opening with “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” (Lee Adams / Charles Strouse) from Bye Bye Birdie, Michael certainly epitomizes the songs credo to go out and live life to the fullest. In addition to his skills as a pianist and singer, Feinstein is renown as a musical anthropologist and archivist of the Great American Songbook. His live performances are always a blend of classic chestnuts, some obscure gems and a smattering of his personal favorites.
Backed by longtime musical director Ted Firth, Feinstein segued between his signature ballads, sung in his high tenor, and swing numbers. A slow-paced “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” from Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady is prefaced with backstory on Rex Harrison ‘talking on pitch’ vocal style with Feinstein dedicating the song to its original muse, Nancy Olson, Lerner’s third wife. Its that kind of attention to historical detail that makes Feinstein a rare bird in cabaret.
Speaking of rare birds, Michael carted out “Rhode Island is Famous for You” from Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz’s 1948 musical revue Inside USA. A lover of a good wordsmith tune, Cole Porter’s “Can-Can” is a zany delight. Jule Styne and Carol Leigh’s gorgeously bitter “Killing Time” and Jimmy Webb’s haunting “Didn’t We” display Feinstein at his best. Peter Allen and Frank Sinatra were the subjects of medleys before the closer of Johnny Mercer and Richard Whiting’s “Too Marvelous for Words”.
Feinstein’s at the Nikko stands as San Francisco’s only nightclub jewel. The first five years have flown by, hopefully to be succeeded with many, many more.