Michele Brourman: Let’s Order In – Songs about Food, Sex and Other Delicacies at the Crazy Coqs, London.
Star rating: 4 stars ★ ★ ★ ★
It wasn’t the greatest start to my evening with Michele Brourman to be informed the train had been cancelled because of a death on the line at the next stop. It could only get better, and it surely did, although the incident meant missing the beginning of this sublime show.
When I finally got there, the ultra-petite Brourman – “4ft 11 on a good day” – was three songs into her one-night-only solo set after accompanying and MD-ing the great Amanda McBroom while her best friend was enchanting us all during her previous week’s residency.
And although McBroom was on hand to help out with a second-half duet about new relationships (‘It’s Never Perfect’), her long-time Los Angeles collaborator showed she was more than capable of conducting a masterclass of her own and holding an audience in the palm of her tiny-but-so-talented hand.
We’ve known for a good while that Brourman was a sublime pianist/composer, but it was a revelation what a strong, versatile voice she possesses, how very funny (and often quite naughty) she is, with a lovely throwaway sense of mischief, as well as possessing the acting skills to put her creations over to maximum effect.
Raunchy when required with a great jazzy growl when performing the innuendo-laden Clarence Williams classic ‘Sugar in My Bowl’, she could easily switch to crystal-clear and soulful when the mood demanded for two terrific love songs ’My Favorite Year’ and ‘Hold On For the Real Thing’.
Those who attended McBroom’s show had heard the latter composition (lyrics by Karen Gottlieb) “for all of us who have found love after the age of 25” when the star took a rest and let Brourman take centre-stage. It was a joy to hear it again, while ‘My Favorite Year’ is the beautifully romantic song by which she is best known.
Written with Gottlieb at a day’s notice – ”we guessed we weren’t first choice!” for the 1982 Peter O’Toole film of the same name, it was never used, which must have been quite a disappointment. Consolation came later with recordings by Michael Feinstein, Cleo Laine and McBroom herself, and exposure in the TV soap Santa Barbara.
Comedy was never far away and the racy ‘Navi Girl’ – an acerbic response to her husband’s obsession with the new ‘girl’ in his life, a navigation device – merits special mention. These, her own lyrics, contained the funniest rhyme of the evening: “Doesn’t he know she’s made in China/She doesn’t even have a vagina.”
The curio of the set was a very un-Elvissy treatment of the 1957 Presley chart-topper ‘All Shook Up’ which gave full vent to Brourman’s piano virtuosity.
“What’s the point of life if you can’t make a fool of yourself” she said by way of introducing it. But this hypnotic performer is nobody’s fool and it is only a shame that at this stage of a long career she is not the worldwide star she thoroughly deserves to be. A very special talent.
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Noir – Amanda McBroom with Michele Brourman – Crazy Coqs – Review