SF Jazz Festival
Max Raabe And Palast Orchester
Saturday, Oct 18 8:00p
Paramount Theatre, Oakland, CA
Max Raabe & Palast Orchester, wearing tuxedos & slicked-back hair, perform spot-on renditions of comic & sentimental songs from the 20's & 30's. Think Weimar Era cabaret, Fred Astair musicals & the Comedy Harmonists. The Art Deco Paramount Theatre is a perfect setting architectually for this music. From the very 1st number I was transported to another time & place.
Raabe sings in German & English & gives brief introductions to each song in English. His delivery was droll, dead-pan & ironic. He introduced a dance number as, "A German waltz. The German waltz is not as elegant as one from Vienna, but is much louder." His singing is usually a combination of crooning & falsetto, though in the last number he let himself belt out spectacularly with his chest voice.
The band rocks. They are excellent musicians all, some of them doubling on unexpected combinations of instruments: tuba/upright bass, trombone/viola, guitar/banjo/violin/mandolin. There is only 1 female onstage, a young violinist wearing a sleek red dress. The orchestra always cued itself, & the ensemble was very tight. Raabe never led them. When not singing, he would retreat from the microphone & lean against the piano.
The entire program was superbly executed, with a few surprises thrown in by the band to keep things from becoming routine. The audience responded enthusiastically to every number. For encores we got San Francisco, then an absurd version of the already absurd Oops I Did it Again. Finally, the musicians came out, surrounded Raabe & his microphone, & sang a sweet choral number in German about a farewell kiss. I was a little sad to have to leave this elegant world.