It was a “long time no see” setting since Holly Cole‘s last visit to Berlin was a pretty long time ago, but it felt like a true homecoming once she started with a sort of condensed introductory version of “Take Me Home”, from her beloved 1995 album “Temptation” with the songs of Tom Waits. There it was, the all-embracing, all-encompassing voice. Her rasp a little more raspy, her low notes a little lower, and her drama even more dramatic.
She released her last album “Holly” late last year after a six-year break from recording, but included only four tracks from the album in her two sets late last night at Charlottenburg’s Quasimodo which was mainly packed with longtime fans. Or so it seemed. It was more of a Best-of show with songs focussing on her career which started in 1992 with her Blue Note debut “Blame It On My Youth” from which she included a pretty melodramatic version of “On The Street Where You Live”.
There were Las Vegas meets Hollywood elements during her sets with pieces like “Charade” and “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head”, but she also showed her poignant style with utterly sweet interpretations of “Moonglow” and “My Foolish Heart”. But it was on pieces like “Cry If You Want To” and songs from her Tom Waits album like “Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night” and “Jersey Girl” where she showed her aesthetically most alluring art: playing around with the beats and utterances of single words are a joy to listen to. Her fooling around on “Bye Bye Blackbird” easily drew the line between kitsch and prowess.
She also hasn’t lost any of her signature twang. During the passage “Not Going Left, Not Going Right” from Stephen Sondheim‘s “Losing My Mind”, she could colorize the word “left” with this acute vocal inflection that only she is capable of. Other pieces didn’t work out like that. Cole Porter‘s “It’s Alright With Me” came across as just another obligatory act and Smokey Robinson‘s “Cruisin'” didn’t convey the uber coolness of the original.
But then again, who else out there is able to find never-heard-of nuances and little tricks on a song that you would think has had more than one definitive version: “Que Sera Sera” has been absorbed and inherited by Frau Cole that it seems to be her own.
Holly has two more shows coming up in Germany before she heads home to Canada for more gigs: she will play Leipzig on Saturday and Halle on Sunday.