June 9, 1987
Her English is faultless
Forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go downtown, where Petula Clark is engaging the like-minded (as opposed to the love-minded) at the Imperial Room this week.
Her masteries include the diffident understatement and the emphatic final fermata. She gushes not. Rather, she accepts graciously our respect.
More medium than messenger, she interprets melodies with fewer vocal filters than anyone Iíve heard here since Brenda Lee. When it comes to lyrics and patter, her wordplay is distinctively, articulately British.
And so is her repertoire this time out. What she calls "our Brit-hit show, our bouquet from the UK" reprises half a dozen Elton John hits, plus half a dozen selections from the Paul McCartney solo career, both of the standards from Ď80s musicals ("Donít Cry For Me Argentina" and "Memory") and the best-known of her outlets for Tony Hatch ("Call Me," Donít Sleep in the Subway," "Downtown.")
Last night it also included an affecting Petula Clark original called "Give It A Try," a Charlie Chaplin song she had helped popularize ("This is My Song") and some spontaneous catering to our whims.
Hers is the confidence that is the opposite of vulnerability. Sheís plucky. Think of her as Englandís answer to our Anne Murray. In concert now, both turn out to be witty comediennes and smooth manipulators of stylish ideas; an array of hits may win them their crowds but the pleasure of their personalities earns them their ovations.
Petula Clark never even pretends that our passions are her concern. Or that hers are ours. The show is skillful diversion, full of potential strums of reminiscence. The composerís primal feelings (if any) are suggested by the orchestration focused by the singerís energy, and felt by us Ė if we want.
Last night we wanted. Petula Clark earned a wide array of enthusiastic responses Ė a standing ovation, a fulsome singalong (on "Edelweiss") even silence.
Love? Maybe not. But I think we liked her, really, a lot.