The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal has been trying to book Liza Minnelli for years, and with good reason. The 66-year old breathy singer put on a spectacular show, in every sense of the word.
Minnelli performed her classics at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts: “New York, New York,” “Cabaret,” an amusing French version of “Liza With a ‘Z’” as well as songs from her latest album, Confessions.
Despite a broken ankle—from tripping over her “damn dog”—that was barely noticeable, Minnelli performed a 90-minute set, with her band on a grand piano, upright bass, percussion and brass.
As if the songs weren’t enough to take listeners back to that golden age, Minnelli took small breaks in between songs to tell stories with her deadpan sense of humour, like the one about “Uncle Frank” (as in Sinatra), who called her to ask if he could sing her song, “New York, New York.”
“He had a damn big hit with it too,” she said.
Minnelli even showed off her acting chops when she performed a short scene from Chicago as Roxie Hart, a part she played for six weeks in 1975, filling in for actress Gwen Verdon. She then went into a dramatic performance of “My Own Best Friend,” a song from the Broadway musical.
After her performance Alain Simard, the president and founder of the festival, presented Minnelli with the Ella Fitzgerald Award. The award is given to international jazz singers and in the past has gone to Etta James and Aretha Franklin.
While there may be a lot to be said for the festival’s free shows, if you want a respite from the heat or sitting on grass, head for a show at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. It will cost a little more but the entertainment is worth it. Seal is playing Friday, July 6, and Norah Jones will play on Saturday, July 7.
If you missed Minnelli last night, check her website for more dates. She will be performing a few select dates throughout the year in the States.