Review: Pink Martini with the SF Symphony

    I’d even wager that Pink Martini could have Bill Ayers and John Boehner doing a cheek-to-jowl conga out the door.

    Pink Martini played Davies Symphony Hall with the San Francisco Symphony
    In Review

    Pink Martini with the San Francisco Symphony

    4 out of 5 stars
    4 out of 5 stars - 'Smashing'
    Davies Symphony Hall
    Conductor - Donato Cabrera
    Performance: June 30, 2011
    Review by

    Pink Martini played Davies Symphony Hall with the San Francisco Symphony

    China Forbes and Thomas Lauderdale go together like gin and tonic, so the news that Ms. Forbes wasn’t present because of emergency throat surgery elicited a reflexive groan through the audience. The first emotion was concern for Ms. Forbes. After having spent hundreds of hours with her voice on CDs, you feel like you know the girl. The second impulse was that the night was ruined.

    As least as to the second point, I was dead wrong. If one measure of a truly excellent band is how fast they can find a singer who can learn a boatload of material in five languages and be genuinely entertaining in the bargain, then Pink Martini qualifies.  Moreover, it says a lot about the flexibility of Pink Martini fans who truly rooted for the last-minute substitute Lucy Woodward, willing her through those first few songs. Their patience paid off because she just got better and better throughout the evening. Her breathy voice disappeared, taking on a warmth and glow of its own. She wasn’t China Forbes, but she was damn good – and that’s all that mattered.

    The magic of Pink Martini is they open a door to a world tantalizingly free from the silly intensity of our daily lives. One wants to gift annoying coworkers with Pink Martini tix, so they’d just get over it, you know? Maybe infect the whole Congress with them.  I’d even wager that Pink Martini could have Bill Ayers and John Boehner doing a cheek-to-jowl conga out the door. Last night, the debt crisis, the Tea Party and even Sarah Palin just stopped existing. I don’t know of any other band who pulls this off so insistently and effortlessly, making accessible entertainment smart.

    The band opened with one of their signature Afro-Cuban songs that was so energizing that I suspect that many didn’t wonder at the absence China Forbes until the announcement was made. Lucy Woodward joined the band immediately thereafter. Refreshingly, the show wasn’t a rerun of their June 2010 material. The band retained just enough of their old material to provide a point of familiarity – and replaced old faves like Dosvedanya Mio Bombini with new material. Robert Taylor did astonishing things on trombone as did Gavin Bondy on trumpet.

    The voice of NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro was even better than it was last year, taking on a richness and resonance that just weren’t there before. “But Now I’m Back,” which brought down the house in 2010, was followed by La Soledad.  After intermission, he rejoined the band to perform Sympathique as a duet with Lucy Woodward wring every bit of the insouciant playfulness out of this tune.

    Having the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Donato Cabrera as a backup band just sweetens the pot, not the least because we get to hear more of Mark Inouye and the rest of the fabulous brass section. The audience floated out of Davies Hall last night on a cloud of Afro-Cuban, Turkish, Croatian, French  good will – which is as good as it gets for a Thursday night.

    San Francisco Bay Area Entertainment, Theater, Arts, FilmPink Martini with the San Francisco Symphony

    Davies Symphony Hall

    4 out of 5 stars

    Conductor – Donato Cabrera

    The Story of Pink Martini with Thomas Lauderdale

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    Cy Ashley Webb
    Cy spent the ‘80’s as a bench scientist, the tech boom doing intellectual property law, and the first decade of the millennium, aspiring to be the world’s oldest grad student at Stanford where she is interested in political martyrdom. Presently, she enjoys writing for Stark Insider and the SF Examiner, hanging out at Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and participating in various political activities. Democracy is not a spectator sport! Cy is a SFBATCC member.
    • CU at Stanford

      Pink Martini opened on July 1 with a stirring version of Bolero, hailed from their debut album.  Perhaps Cy’s review is for the June 30 show?  I wholeheartedly agree that Lucy Woodard’s voice warmed up as the concert went on.  By the time the band performed “Brazil” to close the show, it felt just right and a great time was had by all.

      • You’re correct, this review is for the June 30 performance. We’ve updated the article. Thanks for pointing that out and your comment!

        • Guest

          The June 30 show also opened with Bolero (I was there).  It’s an excellent arrangement, but it’s not part of the group’s debut album.