October 17, 1970

By Robert Hilburn

Petula Clark was nervous about her opening Thursday night at Caesar's Palace. She was going to try some new things in her act and there's always a certain amount of risk to that.

Instead of spreading her hit recordings (such as "Downtown," "Sign of the Times" and "I Know a Place") throughout the act, she was going to compress them into a medley and introduce new material, including a Rod McKuen poem which she had recently set to music, into the act.

"The safe thing always is to spread the hits out over an entire show," she said. "That gives you all sorts of little islands of security that you can fall back on. But I felt I wanted to do something fresh and new. I wanted to take a little risk. I guess I was getting a little tired of doing the same show over and over again."

Once on stage, Miss Clark proved there was no need to worry. The medley and new material worked smoothly. It's been five years now since Miss Clark, a tiny (5'1", 100 pound) blonde, had her first hit record ("Downtown") in the United States.

Though she was old (around 30) by top-ten record standards, her voice had a lilt to it that gave a youthful energy to her records.

But a voice alone is not enough in Las Vegas. It can sell records and put you across in a concert hall, but you've got to be a performer to succeed here. And Miss Clark is, in the best sense of the word, a performer. She's a thoroughly captivating nightclub attraction, full of life, excitement, humor, charm. She also has marvelous instincts for good contemporary material.

Best of all, she knows how to sing a song. Her background as an actress (she was a child star in England as well as the star of such recent films as Finian's Rainbow and Goodbye Mr. Chips) has given her a natural sense of projection on stage.

She has stage movements that are exactly right when she sings a song, either a ballad or an up-tempo number. She raises her hands gently to emphasize a point, closes her eyes, lets her head tilt back, gives a negative nod to reinforce a lyric line, snaps her fingers. All perfect for the songs.

Because her charm and delivery are so much a part of her act, she seems least effective when she sits at the piano to sing "Goin' Out of My Head." Wisely, she uses the piano, which limits her movements, on only that one song.

Miss Clark likes contemporary material (such as "Games People Play" and the Beatles' "Penny Lane" and uses it with understanding and sensitivity.

Miss Clark has a versatile show. It's as pleasant and enjoyable a performance as I've ever seen a femaie vocalist give on a nightclub stage. She'll be at Caesar's Palace with comedian George Kirby through October 28.

With Rod McKuen October 24, 1970           ©D. Bush