July 20, 1986
Petula pleased by Midwest warmth
By John Futty
MANSFIELD—The first thing Petula Clark noticed Saturday on her first visit to Mansfield was the climate.
"Thank you for a warm welcome to a warm, sticky town," she said after opening her concert to generous applause at the Renaissance Theatre. "Is it always this warm here?"
The British pop star was wrapping up her first tour of the United States in "seven or eight years" and told the crowd that this was the first time she had ever performed "in this part of your country."
As it turned out, the Midwestern humidity was nothing to compare with the warmth Miss Clark brought from the Mother Country. The Grammy-winning vocalist delivered no less than 34 songs in a concert that lasted more than two hours. There was also plenty of chatter, as she introduced nearly every number with a friendly anecdote.
After more than 40 years in show business, Miss Clark is the consummate entertainer. Her production is smooth, her nine-piece orchestra and two background vocalists are slick, her demeanor is gracious and her voice is as strong as ever. She even played the piano on several numbers. Most important, she seems to love what she’s doing.
The blond Briton is best remembered for a string of hit singles from the 1960s, although she proved that she isn’t stuck in that decade. Her concert included contemporary tunes by the likes of Phil Collins and Lionel Richie, as well as some recent Broadway hits.
But the oldies were what the crowd came to hear, and Miss Clark didn’t disappoint anyone. After opening the show with "Call Me" (in which she sang "I’ve been so long away from the U.S. of A.") she brought the audience to life with "Don’t Sleep in the Subway."
From the beginning, it was obvious that Miss Clark hasn’t lost any of her vocal abilities. At age 51, she seems to have sharpened them. Her delivery is effortless and powerful, her range is impressive and her pitch is bright and true.
She put that voice to use on all British songs in the first half of the show which she dubbed "A bouquet from the U.K." Among the selections were several of her own hits—"I Couldn’t Live without Your Love," "This is My Song," "My Love," and "You and I."
All were affectionate, faithful renditions, but the highlights of the first half included two Broadway tunes by Andrew Lloyd Webber — "Memory" from Cats and "Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina" from Evita. Both were so dramatic that you had to wonder why this woman doesn’t do more musical theater.
After intermission, Miss Clark turned her attention to American songwriters Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder, offering several selections from each. Some of these songs required Miss Clark to sing in a deep voice, which wasn't as effective as her upper register.
The climax of the second half was "Downtown," Miss Clark’s upbeat signature tune and the song everybody had been waiting for. The song holds up as well as the woman who made it a Grammy winner.
Following a standing ovation, Miss Clark returned for a lengthy, spontaneous encore that included her hit, "Kiss Me Goodbye," a tribute to her late friend John Lennon and "I Know a Place" another song that earned her a Grammy.
The concert concluded with a beautiful rendition of "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music, a musical in which Miss Clark starred on the London stage. She played the piano and encouraged the audience to sing the second chorus ("I like to do the first one myself.")