2012 really came in with a huge party ay Disney Hall. Pink Martini, the Portland based “little orchestra,” had come back to LA to celebrate in the venue they call “the most beautiful in the world.” The group’s visits to LA seem to be a yearly thing now, either New Year’s in Disney, or a summer concert at the Hollywood Bowl. They have become one of the most popular groups to perform in this city as referenced by their two totally “sold-out” concerts this New Years.
Their concerts are always throbbing with energy and excitement but even more so this year with the return of their magnificent vocalist China Forbes, who had been sidelined for much of the year following voice surgery. If anything, she sang better than ever.
The repertoire was a combination of the familiar hits with some new musical expressions as only they can do it. They began with one of my favorites “Amado Mio,” and then sang “Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler “ from their first hit album Sympatique in 1997.
One of the most remarkable facts about Pink Martini is that each of the musicians are terrific artists in their own right and jubilant pianist and conductor Thomas Lauderdale gives them plenty of opportunities to shine. With this band of 13 musicians, expanded to 20 for this concert with added strings and accordion, came a whole group of guests. Foremost in this group, and a real surprise, was Ari Shapiro, NPR White House Correspondent, who displayed not only a wonderful voice but also a great sense of humor. Together with Forbes they sang a pair of tunes from Pink Martini’s Splendor in the Grass CD, “And Now You’re Gone,” where Forbes tries to wash her hands of an absentee lover, and “But Now I’m Back” where Shapiro tries to talk his way back through the door. Shapiro and Forbes were joined by Cantor Ida Rae Cahana and sang “Elohai N’tzor.”
To celebrate the holiday there were, of course, seasonal songs, but in true Pink Martini fashion. Some were in other languages, a Chinese New Year’s song and to top it all off appearances by famed puppeteer Basil Twist, and the Chula Vista Marching band joining with everyone onstage in a Latin version of “Auld Lang Syne.” No concert of Pink Martini’s would be complete without “Hey Eugene” which brought down the house. I can’t wait to see them again, but meanwhile I will have to settle for Joy To The World, A Retrospective, and 1969, collaboration with Japanese singer Saori Yuki. Whatever you do catch their next concert and buy their albums. Fantastic group.