The last time I saw Elaine Delmar in live performance, which was almost exactly one year ago, she was accompanied by piano only. This mattered not a whit or a jot given that Ms Delmar’s artistry is such that she would shine if supported by a triangle and/or tambourine. On Sunday at Pizza Express she brought a quartet – Barry Green, piano, Dave Green, bass, Bobby Worth, drums, and Alex Garnett, tenor – and blew us all away.
For the record it was arguably the coldest day of the year so far and the SRO audience was happy, nay, delighted, to bask in the glow of this doyenne of cabaret performers who spent two hours and 20 numbers weaving the kind of magic that is always prefaced by the word abracadabra.
Unlike some newer performers – I was witness recently to one whose idea of a balanced evening was a dozen numbers all in double and triple time – Ms. Delmar knows just when to lay a gentle bouncer on us and conversely just when to take our breath away with a heart-stopping ballad, and while she does make free with the Great American Songbook – Gershwin, Porter, Kern, Rodgers & Hart, Rodgers & Hammerstein are all heard from – she also finds room for the likes of Don’t Sleep In The Subway, I Won’t Last A Day Without You and Killing Me Softly With His Song. Kenwood Chefs don’t mix like this on their best days.
Throughout she has a mile-wide smile plastered on her face and the energy of someone a third her age. Ask me to define cabaret – I’ve just done so.
Elaine Delmar At Pizza Express, Dean Street, London W1D 3RW