I first heard of Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester when a friend from Switzerland sent me a link on YouTube. I immediately fell in love with their sound that is 1930s. I was very excited when I found out they would be making an appearance for UCLA LIVE for one night only Feb 18th at Royce Hall. The evening was called “ A Night in Berlin” and featured music one might have heard in the 1930s in Berlin.
Max Raabe formed the Palast Orchester in 1984 and has gone on to give concerts around the world. The Orchester itself consists of 12 musicians who double on several instruments and join in the presentation of each number by choreography, solo sections, and even vocal assists. The are amazing musicians in that they can capture all the many styles Raabe’s 500 songs require.
Raabe himself is a totally unique artist. He captures the rasping sound of the cabaret, the smoothness of a Cole Porter tune, and the timbre of early jazz, all with the self-confident swagger of a gigolo or nightclub entertainer of the period. His singing has been described as “revealing the enigmatic intelligence, ambiguity, musical power, and complexity of the German chanson from the turbulent Weimar Republic.” He has a remarkable falsetto and shows great skill in adjusting his voice to each songs requirement.
All of this he delivers with a great sense of irony and a tongue planted securely, but without camp, in his cheek. He can be seductively sexy, sexually ambiguous, full of fun, naive, and melancholy. The music of the period supports him in it insistence on being up despite the troubled times. Perfect for our times too.
The set consisted of several German standards including “Mein Gorilla” and songs to various women (Elizabeth, Marie). His theatrical songs included a song by Weill and Brecht (“Alabama Song”) and “Happy Days are here Again”, “Cheek to Cheek”, “Falling in Love Again”, Smoke gets in Your Eyes”, and a wonderful “Miss Otis Regrets”. Judging from YouTube his repertoire extends to modern songs like “Opps, I Did it Again” by Britney Spears and “We Will Rock You” by Queen. He brings the same 30s treatment to these songs as well. For this concert he limited himself to songs that were popular in Germany. Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester played and spun his magic at UCLA Royce Hall on Feb 18th.