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Concert Review: Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester at UCLA Royce Hall, Los Angeles, California

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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.

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About Robert Machray

  • dasboogiewoogie

    Moin, Moin from Texas!
    If you like Max’ music and the Golden entertainment of the 1920s, you might like Brendan McNally’s dark comic novel “Germania” (Simon & Schuster, 2009), about the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers, four somewhat magical, Jewish vaudeville entertainers and onetime child stars who were the toast of Berlin before WWII and who reunite during the surreal, three-week “Flensburg Reich” of Admiral Doenitz, Hitler’s very unlucky successor.

  • robert machray

    thanks for the suggestion

  • John Wilson

    I’ve seen this band a few times on PBS and greatly enjoyed it, which surprised me at first. They are professional and captivating and I would recommend them to any grownup.

  • John Erickson

    I had the good fortune to see them in Los Angeles 2/18/2010 at Royce Hall / UCLA. What I found was that listening to the CD’s that captures some but not all of their performance presence when it came to getting the full impact. Max as the front man give background information about the song, writers and other tidbits but this is given in a playful nature. He is not really over the top but often subtle using a look or raised eyebrow to communicate. He was at ease and in command but did not hog the performance at all. The band also has a lot of interesting interplay between members. The comedic timing is really good. The sound mixing at Royce Hall was extraordinarily good.

    Here in the US there is a DVD package of “Heute Natch Oder Nie Live in Berlin” which has a DVD of the concert, a making of DVD and a CD of more songs. Even the DVD which is marvelous, sounds so wonderful and is great to watch, does not capture the interplay and the ambiance of seeing them live.

    At Royce hall were a couple of friends. Matthew who is not usually drawn to this type of music was delightfully astonished at how much he enjoyed the performance and my friend Dawn said as soon as it ended, “Right now, I want to watch them play this all over again!” It was a special evening and there was a sense of something magical had occurred that night.

    For me and my friends the total experience of seeing them live was greater than the sum of the parts.

  • robert machray

    check on his performances on youtube