Concert Performances - The 1950s

The 1950s

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The Fifties

April 1951: Copacabana, New York
Songs included: Rock Me to Sleep / 'S Wonderful / All of Me / Woman Alone with the Blues / La Vie en Rose

    "Peggy Lee, during her two-week stint here, proved something that Billy Eckstine never tried to prove: that you can entertain a Copa audience without falling back on either this week's Hit Parade or special material. Looking like a shimmering blonde dream...she even sang part of 'La Vie En Rose' in French, and unlike any other non-French singer we've heard on this song, she accepted the fact that "rose" is a two-syllable word. For this alone she deserves the Legion of Honor." - Leonard Feather, Downbeat, 5/4/51

March 1953: La Vie En Rose, New York
Songs included: I've Got You Under My Skin / Lover / Why Don't You Do Right? / My Heart Belongs to Daddy / Hard-hearted Hannah / Mañana / The Riddle Song / What's New? / All Too Soon / Good Morning, Heartache / Easy Living / Blues for Benny / The Meanest Girl in Town

    "Striking in gun-metal net strapless with pink show-through - and add that hairdo - she rides, slides and glides over a flock of songs that run out the string in casing her versatility, pace and handling." - Variety, 4/1/53

    "The jammed room saw Peggy Lee, an electric singer with a driving beat on some songs and a sensual appeal on torcheroos... Perhaps it was Miss Lee's picture, perhaps it was something else, but whatever it was, she has never sung so well nor sold as strongly as she did here. 'Lover'... built and built; the band went haywire, the gal gave it a mad jam session interpretation and the audience went wild. It was one of those shows which happen rarely. Only a top-flight act could follow her that night." - Bill Smith, Billboard, 4/4/53

    "Being very cautious about overstatement, we will only say conservatively that Peggy gave the greatest performance we have seen delivered by any singer in a Manhattan club in the last five years - and that includes everybody, male or female, from Lena Horne and Sinatra on down. If you only know Peggy Lee from records, or radio and TV and theaters, catch her some time in an intimate nightclub like this. If you don't get a genuine thrill - Jack, you must be dead." - Leonard Feather, Downbeat, 5/6/53

June 1954: Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
Songs unknown

    "Personally, I would never have figured her to be a top act on the Fairmont hotel circuit off her performances with Goodman and her records. But she is. She is, as I think Mr. Leonard, the Mighty Fine Feather of New York has said, simply sensational. The reasons she is are the staging of her act, the fact that she attempts nothing she cannot do, the accompaniment she uses, and the fact that everything is organized to present her vocal and visual virtues in the best possible showcase." - Ralph J. Gleason, Downbeat, 8/11/54

    "You don't have to have your hip card punched to get a belt out of Peggy Lee's singing, and that's one thing that makes this gal an exception to most jazz vocalists. She has crossed completely over the bridge between jazz and pop music and now rates as one of the best vocal acts of her sex currently on the hotel circuit. Miss Lee - like Nat King Cole - is a perfect example of how to retain a jazz feeling and still make the squares love it... Gowned in excellent costumes, with a crack jazz sextet backing her up, utilizing deftly all body English passable in a hotel room, she puts across her numbers with alternately the wallop of a barrelhouse blues shouter, soft-voiced warmth of a café thrush or practiced showmanship of a born trouper." - Variety, 6/54

September 1955: Sands Hotel, Las Vegas
Songs included: The Touch of Your Hand / Somebody Loves Me / Learnin' the Blues / I Feel a Song Coming On / Ridin' High / Swing Low, Sweet Chariot / Why Don't You Do Right? / Lover

    "From a one-time blue and pensive period, Miss Lee has picked up tempo to give off sparks with her fine chantoosing. No longer the subjective whisperer, she qualifies with undeniable showmanship and really belts whenever necessary. Not that she's tossed away her special ability to purr out a romantic ballad in the magenta spot... There's a definite communication set up between stage an audience." - Variety, 9/21/55

    "Praise be the return of Peggy Lee to her frame of dynamic showmanship instead of a rather negative, intensely subjective cycle remembered from previous appearances in Vegas a couple of years ago. Casting the blue and pensive delivery into limbo, she now picks up tempo to scatter sparks with her fine and tasty singing." - Bill Willard, Downbeat, 10/19/55

January 1956: Sands Hotel, Las Vegas
Songs unknown

    "Peggy Lee not only is being accorded kudos for her role in Pete Kelly's Blues, but is given solid tribute here as a top nitery performer... The Lee approach to a nitery act encompasses the entire songalog as an overall presentation rather than as a string of tunes in the pop category. A fine balance and pace is offered." - Variety, 2/1/56

March 1956: Cocoanut Grove, Los Angeles
Songs included: I'm Glad There Is You / When the World Was Young / You've Got to See Mama Every Night

    "Few saloon entertainers today get billing as 'Miss,' as Miss Peggy Lee does for this three-week stand at the Cocoanut Grove. She earns it. It's a long jump from the band and smoky bistro days, but Miss Lee has made the grade with little difficulty to purvey a nitery turn that registers hefty interest... There are few singers extant who can handle a song as she does, or generate the driving rhythm that marks many of her numbers." - Variety, 3/14/56

August 1956: Sands Hotel, Las Vegas
Songs included: My Matador

    "Peggy Lee is one of this circuit's more prominent regulars. Her sensuous embrace of tune and lyric are to the liking of the gambling crowd. And there's no doubt she will lure plenty of customers during her four frames in the Copa Room, handily adjacent to the spa's casino. Unfortunately, however, her act has been altered little from that of past engagements, and this repetition creates a mechanical appearance to her format... Also, [the] chirp's orchestrations [are] sometimes overarranged and much too lush... Despite these points, Miss Lee still remains a polished performer and poignant interpreter of song." - Variety, 8/22/56

February 1957: Sands Hotel, Las Vegas
Songs included: I Can't Resist You / Don't Get Around Much Anymore / That Old Feeling / Smoke Gets in Your Eyes / Easy Street / Friendly Persuasion

    "Peggy Lee returns to the Copa Room in a program which proves her distinctive style is getting more versatile with each Vegas stint... Her lack of animation perfectly fits the cozy numbers presented with a velvety huskiness which is good. When she purrs 'That Old Feeling' and 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,' she gets across the point to each male in the audience that it is he alone to whom she is singing." - Variety, 2/6/57

February 1958: Copacabana, New York
Songs included: Don't Fool Around with Calico (If You Have Silk at Home) / When My Sugar Walks Down the Street / My Heart Stood Still / Fever / St. Louis Blues / Nothing

    "If there's nothing like a dame, there's also nothing quite like an in-person version of Miss Lee, who's gorgeously coiffed and gowned... The phrasing, the articulation, the authentic charm and the sincerity show all the way through, finally to encase the audience in an indefinable aura; they know they've been had, by a singer who sneaks up on them without them being aware of it. There's hardly anyone in the business more artful, that way and in others, than Miss Lee. Significantly, she avoids current songs like the Asian flu." - Variety, 2/12/58

June 1958: Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
Songs included: Life Is for Living / My Heart Stood Still / What a Little Moonlight an Do / Don't Fool Around with Calico (If You Have Silk at Home) / Jump for Joy / When My Sugar Walks Down the Street / Fever / The Folks Who Live on the Hill / St. Louis Blues

    "Blonde Peggy Lee, nicely curvy in a white sequined gown, gets a good hand in her 40-minute show at the Fairmont's cavernous Venetian Room... Miss Lee tends to be at disadvantage because room is so big, but she also would be well-advised to use more standard material - room generally draws a pretty square crowd. Her accompaniment is good and she doesn't clutter up act with a lot of unneccessary chatter." - Variety, 6/11/58

December 1958: Moulin Rouge, Hollywood
Songs included: Fever / Lover / When the Saints Go Marching In / Blow, Trumpet, Blow / When the World Was Young

    "Peggy Lee, looking great and sounding better, has moved into the starring slot in the Moulin Rouge's 'Wonderful World,' and with her talent and style looming larger than the gray pachyderms behind her, she should attract socko business right up to Christmas Day... And there's one of the most moving moments on the nitery circuit when, in a single spotlight, Miss Lee sings two verses and a chorus of the haunting 'When the World Was Young.' Blonde vocalist's relaxed feeling is contagious, putting her audience in an easy, receptive mood, and the rapport pays off." - Variety, 12/17/58

November 1959: Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas
Songs included: Publicity / I Enjoy Being a Girl / Misty / Diamonds (Fever with new lyrics) / Smack Dab in the Middle / I'm Gonna Go Fishin' / Every Time We Say Goodbye

    "The distinctive song styling of Peggy Lee is showcased better than ever in her new act which was written and staged by Sid Kuller. With one exception, Miss Lee's current songalog is completely different from her previous Vegas visit, and she seems to have more warmth and animation to go along with it." - Variety, 12/2/59