Concert Performances - The 1980s

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February 1980: Fairmont, New Orleans
Songs included: My Father / All the Time / Music Makes Me Cry / I'll Be Seeing You

    "She creates mini-dramas with her superb voice and with good orchestrations from the Dick Stabile group. Especially effective is her ability to hit a note, flatten it for dramatic effect and return it to its proper place on the scale... While Lee respects her audience by trying new, unusual material, she also respects backup musicians by turning toward them during bridges, riveting audience attention on their fine music." - Variety, 2/13/80

February 1980: Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
Songs included: The More I See You / I Could Write a Book / My Father / Is That All There Is? / Johnny Guitar / I've Grown Accustomed to His Face / Just One of Those Things / Don't Cry Out Loud / I'll Be Seeing You

    "Peggy Lee still has an aura, a mystique, an ineffable essence that she uses to hold sway over her audiences... She presides over her show like a good, white witch (so to speak) and yet, it seemed that she wasn't always there. I mean, in the here and now... Her most effective moments Thursday were those where she sang as if from a cocoon, oblivious to the band, the audience, to everything but the words." - Conrad Silvert, San Francisco Examiner, 2/23/80

November 1980: Palladium, London
Songs included: Bewitched (Bothered and Bewildered) / The Best Is Yet to Come / Witchcraft / I'm a Woman / Fever / The Folks Who Live on the Hill

    "Staying on at the Palladium for two nights after the Royal Variety Performance, Peggy Lee sadly attracted a less than capacity audience, but those that were discerning enough to attend were treated to a spellbinding performance of stunning virtuosity. Barely moving from the same spot by the piano, she simply sang, but commanded attention, respect and admiration through the deceptively laid-back power and control of a voice that has not dimmed over the years. - Rodney Burbeck, Music Week, 11/80

    "Blonde bombshell Peggy Lee took the Palladium by storm last week with her overplayed ice queen glamour and her ultra-cool - even underplayed - set. The extravagance of the whipped honey halo of hair and the diaphanous feathered gown was in marked contrast to the taut, controlled performance in which not one bar of phrase was wasted... Perhaps the most remarkable facet of the American's performance was her ability to communicate the intimacy of a nightclub setting as she draped herself across the piano in slinky fashion, and yet be received with the revered hush of a concert hall audience." - Moira Petty, The Stage, 11/27/80

February 1981: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles - with Steve Allen
Songs included: The Best Is Yet to Come / I Could Write a Book / I'm a Woman / Fever / Is That All There Is? / Help Me Make It Through the Night / Don't Cry Out Loud / I'll Be Seeing You

    "Peggy Lee is a singer of great subtlety and understatement. In fact, she's at her best when she's cool, blasé and detached... Lee was in wonderful voice, easily belying her 58 years (40 of them in show business). Her effortless, unforced style combines great taste with purity and precision, though she spices it up occasionally with saucy numbers like Leiber and Stoller's 'I'm a Woman.'" - Paul Grein, Los Angeles Times, 2/19/81

February 1981: Diplomat Hotel, Hollywood, Florida - with Tony Bennett
Songs unknown

    "For their first co-billed engagement, Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett have put together an evening of musical nuggets comprising 36 songs tied into three long medleys... Both singers are in good voice, the songs are standards and the arrangements are top-notch. The main thrust of the evening is the quality of the music and the singers, and there are no problems there. The show's only problem can be solved by working out the kinks in the presentation and pacing it to provide a bit more pizzazz if they want to continue the pairing, as they say they do." - Variety, 3/4/81

September 1982: DeNooyer Auditorium, Hackensack, New Jersey
w/ Gordon MacRae, Keely Smith, Nelson Riddle, Margaret Whiting, Betty Hutton, Andy Russell, Ella Mae Morse, Johnny Johnston, The Four Freshmen, The Pied Pipers
Songs included: Make Believe / I Can Dream, Can't I? / Mr. Wonderful / 'S Wonderful / Is That All There Is

    "Peggy Lee didn't sing 'Sleepy Time Gal' the other night...but no one would have blamed her if she had. The 40th Anniversary Salute to Capitol Records started about 7 Friday evening, but it wasn't until 1:30 Saturday morning that Lee, the show's headliner, finally came out... When Lee at last appeared to do her 20-minute set, she was in fine voice... It was too bad that the mind- and backside-numbing length of the show made it impossible to appreciate fully her performance." - Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record, 9/13/82

    "Except for Peggy Lee, none of the singers on hand were as notable, or likely to be immortalized, as such other Capitol Records artists of the early decades as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole or Judy Garland, all of whom were seen during the opening film hour... Lee's rich, insinuating voice was in top form, and she was an appropriate tiara to the Capitol Records salute." - George Kanzler, Star-Ledger, 9/14/82

November 1982: Barbican Center, London
Silk Cut Festival of Jazz, w/ Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Carmen McRae, Joe Williams, Blossom Dearie
Songs included: 'S Wonderful / Make Believe / Mr. Wonderful / I Love Being Here with You / I Want to Be Happy / I've Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) / The Best Is Yet to Come / Fever / I'm a Woman / I'll Be Seeing You

    "There was a moment, a few minutes into Peggy Lee's performance...when it became obvious that something quite extraordinary was happening. It came as she embarked on a version of the old Gershwin ballad 'S Wonderful,' and the word for it, I suppose, is inspiration. For the best part of an hour thereafter, every phrase she sang had a poise and spaciousness that not even her best recordings have captured... Even at the slowest of tempos she could leave a long pause without fear that the momentum would be lost... There were no histrionics or showbiz tricks, just the merest of hesitations, a droop of the voice, a couple of altered notes which transformed the melody and made it infinitely more moving than its composer could ever have imagined." - Dave Gelly, Observer, 11/7/82

December 14-18, 1983: Peg, Lunt-Fontanne Theater, New York
Songs included: Fever / Goody, Goody / Why Don't You Do Right? / Mañana / Lover / Big Spender / That Old Piano / He'll Make Me Believe That He's Mine / Daddy Was a Railroad Man / One Beating a Day / Is That All There Is?

    "When Peggy Lee is singing, Peg is an entertaining show. But the concert revue which arrived Wednesday at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater has been clouded by awkwardly written, mawkish autobiographical material that veers close to self-glorification. A simpler, more modest approach would have been more winning. Lee's voice remains one of the glories of popular music. It's a distinctive instrument capable of delightful tonal variations, and her subtle phrasing and expressive lyric interpretations are unimpaired. Backed by an outstanding onstage orchestra, the star delivers tasty versions of some 26 songs, including the obligatory hits, along with a handful of pleasant new songs co-written with composer Paul Horner. Musically the show is virtually flawless... It's not that the singer is an unattractive or cold personality. But the myopic and maudlin writing, which omits introspective insights, ironically distances her from the audience... Peggy Lee's numerous devotees will doubtlessly revel in the show, and fanciers of pop singing by one of the great practitioners of the form will find much to enjoy. But Peg is a Broadway show at Broadway prices, and its unsatisfying narrative presentation will probably limit its longevity." - Variety, 12/21/83

    "Dressed in a flowing gown of white and silver, her head crowned by a halo of glitter, Peggy Lee takes to the stage of the Lunt-Fontanne like a high priestess ascending an altar. And Peg, the 'musical autobiography' that Miss Lee has brought to Broadway, is nothing if not a religious rite. In this evening of song and chat, one of our premier pop singers presents herself as a spiritual icon. There is some entertainment in Peg, not to mention some striking musicianship, but the show is most likely to excite those who are evangelistically devoted to Peggy Lee and God - ideally in that order... Though Miss Lee's voice is a small instrument, it is usually sure in pitch. Her rhythmic attack can't be beat." - Frank Rich, New York Times, 12/15/83

June 1984: Festival Hall, London
Songs included: Love Me or Leave Me / My Romance / 'S Wonderful / The Wind Beneath My Wings / Love Is Here to Stay / I'll Be Seeing You

    "Star quality, as the still running masterpiece Evita observes, is what it's all about. It can supervene to uplift the moderately talented, to push back the years, even to thwart disaster. You either have it or you don't. Peggy Lee has it, with sexuality to match, and her outrageously successful concert at the Festival Hall on Thursday was a memorable demonstration of its effect... Evita-like, too was the feeling that flooded back from the audience. You could sense it, almost touch it - a kind of loving for the good years which plainly moved the sexagenarian who received it to a degree rare in the emotive-tinsel world of stage performance. I have seen standing ovations a thousand times, but never one so meant." - Derek Jewell, London Times, 6/3/84

June 1984: Westwood Playhouse, Los Angeles
Songs included: I Love Being Here with You / I've Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) / Louisville Lou / I Want to Be Happy / When You're Smiling / I'll Get By / Is That All There Is? / Why Don't You Do Right? / Mañana / Sing a Rainbow / Watch What Happens / Lover / Fever / I'm a Woman / The Folks Who Live on the Hill / 'S Wonderful / Fly Me to the Moon / Love Me or Leave Me / Heart / Help Me Make It Through the Night / The Wind Beneath My Wings / I'll Be Seeing You

    "It was immediately clear that all the elements had fallen into place. The theater is just small enough to enable her to establish a rapport, even with fans in the back row... Peggy Lee works too seldom in the city where she has lived for so many years. Her presence in the right place, with the right repertoire and musicians, is a needed reminder that she is still one of a kind." - Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times, 6/21/84

    "Lee, who complained of a slight cold, dug into her considerable trove of signature tunes to effusive fan response. Her voice, while a little tentative in the upper register, is still one of the most distinctive ad interesting around... Especially in the case of ['The Wind Beneath My] Wings,' Lee's delivery put a new kind of emphasis on the lyric, which made it more emotionally direct." - Variety, 7/11/84

October 1984: Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
Songs included: I Love Being Here with You / Mañana / Fever / I Want to Be Happy / Love Me or Leave Me / 'S Wonderful / Just One of Those Things / I've Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) / Fly Me to the Moon / As Time Goes By / The Wind Beneath My Wings / Song of the Red Dragonfly / I'll Be Seeing You

    "I've never understood just what wheels had to be turning, what galaxies had to be in proper juxtaposition, what cosmic vibes had to be functioning for singer Peggy Lee to perform a show just the way she wanted. But, whatever, last night...Lee has her act as much together (I think) as she'll ever accomplish, and the overall effect was both memorable and stunning... The years haven't changed Lee much. She came on stage last night singing 'I Love Being Here with You,' her (original) theme, planted herself comfortably against the piano and proceeded to sing 21 songs - all complete renditions, all superbly rendered. No gamey introductions, no cute routines; just singing." - Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner, 10/3/84

May 1985: Drury Lane Theater, Chicago
Songs included: I've Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) / Don't Explain / God Bless the Child

    "In the world of popular music, Peggy Lee is one of the permanent people - a singer of such special gifts, especially in the area where technique and emotion meet, that the term 'popular music' doesn't begin to describe her artistry. If the performance Lee gave Wednesday...had been labeled a 'song recital' instead of a show, and been measured against the work of, say, Janet Baker or Elly Ameling, I'm sure that any unprejudiced listener would agree that Lee was in the same league. In fact, I'd go further than that and claim that Lee is, at her frequent best, something close to a composer - for she reshapes her material with a subtlety and taste that go beyond mere interpretation." - Larry Kart, Chicago Tribune, 5/23/85

July 1985: The Ballroom, New York
Songs included: Fever / Lover / Johnny Guitar / I'll Give It All to You / Big Spender / I've Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) / The Wind Beneath My Wings / Help Me Make It Through the Night / The Thrill Is Gone / I'll Get By / Baubles, Bangles and Beads / Just One of Those Things / Song of the Red Dragonfly

    "Peggy Lee has not made a New York nitery appearance in about a decade. Her sole venture in New York was in a one-woman Broadway show at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, an abortive effort in which she minimized singing in favor of a sad autobiography. Her return to niteries in what she does best at the Ballroom is an event, and must unfortunately turn out to be a test of her physical stamina. In her first show, she showed great skill as a singer-entertainer, with hardly a reference to the sad parts of her life... It's amazing to note the prodigious amount of music Lee is associated with either as lyricist or the one who catapulted a tune to prominence. Lee seemed as fresh at the finish as she did at the start of her taxing show. In addition to her considerable vocal talents, she shows a gracious sense of humor, which many seemed to have forgotten during her hiatus." - Variety, 7/17/85

    "The years have been kind to Miss Lee. At age 63, she has as deft a way with a song as ever, and her unique style - which has always depended more on nuance and timbre than on range and power - remains unscathed by the passage of time. If anything, her smoky voice has actually benefited from the passage of time; it has acquired a live-in quality that added extra poignance to signature tunes... It's been a decade since Peggy Lee last performed in a New York nightclub, and longer than that since she last had a successful record. But her soothing, seemingly effortless approach transcends the vagaries of the music business; one gets the feeling that as long as she has the opportunity to sing in front of an audience, she'll be happy - and so will her audiences." - Peter Keepnews, Billboard, 8/10/85

April 1986: Westwood Playhouse, Los Angeles
Songs included: Lover / Johnny Guitar / I'll Give It All to You / You Don't Know Me / Fever / Is That All There Is? / I'll Be Seeing You

    "The night was given an added dose of poignancy, as this is Lee's first engagement since undergoing heart bypass surgery. She quickly showed the curious and the hopeful that she still has a way with a song and can turn a lyric into a personal statement... In Lee's case, it has never been a matter of great range or dynamics, but of subtlety in feeling. Her greatest asset is still a diction and phrasing that makes a tune all her own... There is so much collective experience in those songs, for both Lee and her audience, that the songs are able to suggest much more than one is actually hearing. When she exited to 'I'll Be Seeing You,' it was clear that it was no casual remark, and meant as much to her as her fans. It was something more than just her music." - Variety, 4/23/86

June 1986: The Ballroom, New York
Songs included: Fever / Johnny Guitar / Big Spender / The Wind Beneath My Wings / Why Don't You Do Right? / Lover / I'm a Woman / Is That All There Is? / Little Baby Ducks / You Don't Know Me / Just Keep Holdin' On

    "With the years, many things become increasingly evident about La Lee. She can repeat much of her material and it all seems fresh. She constantly gives these numbers new vistas. She regards many of her songs as vehicles for enjoyment and has little difficulty in conveying these thoughts to the audience... Lee's easy, sexy and understated stylings apparently provide little wear-and-tear on her vocal equipment, which enables her to provide added color and new interpretation. She seems like a new girl in town with every date." - Variety, 6/18/86

    "Peggy Lee returned on Tuesday to the Ballroom, where a year ago she made her first New York cabaret appearance in a decade, and gave a demanding two-hour performance that revealed a new sense of security in both her singing and her stage presence... With this [instrumental] foundation, Miss Lee has refined her singing to its essence. Her voice simmers through her songs. There is nothing extraneous. Simplicity is keynote, but it is a simplicity that underlines the colors and warmth in her voice. Her program is a full-scale tour of Peggy Lee." - John S. Wilson, New York Times, 6/12/86

March 1987: Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena, California
Songs included: I Won't Dance / Just Keep Holding On / Good Morning Heartache / Some Other Spring / Don't Explain / God Bless the Child / Baubles, Bangles and Beads / He's a Tramp / Them There Eyes / 'S Wonderful / As Time Goes By / Here's to Life / It's a Wonderful World / Is That All There Is? / Fever

    "Time and trouble, most recently a broken hip, have not dimmed the subtle, distinctive artistry of legendary warbler Peggy Lee... The show was Lee's first since falling during a Las Vegas concert in February, and the singer's return was, on nearly all counts, a solid success. Unable to ambulate, Lee proffered her 22-song set sitting down (her chair was elevated amid champagne bubble balloons). She turned the limitation to good effect, drawing regular laughs and cheers with sedentary kicks and grinds. Indeed, the throne-like setup enhanced Lee's characteristically regal pose, with the singer, dressed in full-length wraparound white fur and gown, dispensing musical offerings with majestic, if mellow, hauteur. Lee always has been a rather exotic creation, at once bluesy, ethereal and super cool, with a faintly tragic air seeping through layer upon layer of legend and mystique." - Variety, 4/15/87

    "Lee's stage presence blends just the right touches of preparation and informality... The romantic warmth, the rhythmic sensitivity, the touches of humor and, above all, the indestructible vocal instrument that is Peggy Lee must rank among the rarest treasures of contemporary music." - Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times, 3/12/87

June 1987: Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas
Songs included: Lover / Fever / Little Baby Ducks / Just Keep Holding On / Here's to Life

    "Peggy Lee is still in a wheelchair from injuries suffered when she strode into loudspeakers at the wings on opening show of her last appearance in the Circus Maximus room. The seated position in no way impedes her delivery and forceful presence, singing a mostly familiar catalog of Lee hits, also with some other composers' works registering well. The dynamics are instinctual as she ranges from purrs to wails, expressed with her innate jazz sense." - Variety, 6/24/87

October 1987: Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
Songs included: Fever / Is That All There Is? / Big Spender / Why Don't You Do Right? / The Siamese Cat Song / I'll Give It All to You / Them There Eyes / As Time Goes By / Since I Fell / Help Me Make It Through the Night / Lover / Johnny Guitar / Squeeze Me

    "At 67, her voice has lost some range and strength, but she still can sculpt a song with the sensuous power of suggestion. Lee's art is all subtle shaping, shading and nuance. What she leaves out matters as much as what she puts in. And she can still swing a song with the greatest of ease... One of the great pleasures of Lee's company is her off-center and sometimes surreal sense of humor. You never know what she'll say next, or why." - Jesse Hamlin, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/8/87

February 1988: The Ballroom, New York
Songs included: Is That All There Is? / Johnny Guitar / Fever / Circle in the Sky / Are You with Me? / 'S Wonderful / Them There Eyes / Jump for Joy

    "Peggy Lee this year, according to her publicity, is marking her 50th anni in showbiz. However, she admits to error. For this occasion, she's celebrating another step in her longevity at the Ballroom. It seems unusual and pleasing that the major asset holding up best is her voice. Without tapes of her past, it would be difficult to tell the difference from appearances years back. Physically, she comes on aided by a sequined cane, and she uses an unsequined chair. These concessions to her latter-day infirmaties do not affect her performance. She looks great in her highly blondined wig and surgical overhaul resulting from some broken bones... Many numbers have been in her folio for years. However, she gives fresh facets to the familiars. Her natural understatement of the works tend to draw the customers to her. Apparently, she has no need to boom and reach out, a trick she discovered long ago... Lee's knowledge of music and musicians is another astounding aspect of her career." - Variety, 2/10/88

    "The indomitable Peggy Lee has not only surmounted the physical problems that have beset her recently - double heart-bypass surgery three years ago and a fall last year resulting in broken bones in her feet, from which she has still not recovered - she has also adapted and, in the process, become an even more subtle and moving performer than she had been. At the Ballroom, she walked onstage leaning on a glittering silver cane, a vision in white - white shoulder-length wig, white fur jacket, white gown and huge, amber-tinted glasses. She settled into a chair and, like an exotic variation of the regal Mabel Mercer, sang her entire program sitting down. It was a situation that, inadvertently, put a finishing touch on the simplicity of style that she has been cultivating for years. Aside from an occasional snapping of her fingers, picked out by a spotlight as she moved into 'Fever,' her hit of 30 years ago, all the movement Miss Lee needs is in her voice. Her singing is innately rhythmic no matter what the song... With Miss Lee relaxed in her chair, her voice takes on a literally laid-back quality without losing any of its basic vitality." - John S. Wilson, New York Times, 2/4/88

April 10, 1988: Radio City Music Hall, New York, with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
Songs included: Fever / Is That All There Is?

    "Peggy Lee joined Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. in their Radio City Music Hall finale April 10 to make a joyous, affection-laden recital even more joyful. Lee added luster to the event with her well-defined and deeply grooved catalog, which included most of her epics... Lee, who has been ailing and now walks with the aid of a sequined cane, worked from a variation of a pilot's chair which allowed her to swing in all directions for better audience contact... There is a basic humor and warmth to her natural style of presentation. She, no less, was a hit, and it's based on ability to sing rather than sympathy for her physical condition... The night was a benefit for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital." - Variety, 4/13/88

February 1989: The Ballroom, New York
Songs included: See See Rider / Why Don't You Do Right? / Fever / Is That All There Is? / Johnny Guitar

    "Peggy Lee has always been a spellbinding singer - a weaver of moods and colors. But for her new show she has created an illustrated narrative, 'The Blues Branch of the Jazz Tree,' in which she traces the development of the blues with spoken settings that have the same magnetically mood-evoking qualities as her singing. Moving from chain-gang songs to street cries to spirituals and gospel songs, Miss Lee mixes brief phrases of song with a languorous, almost hypnotizingly cadenced narration before she reaches a full-scale treatment of a classic blues song, Ma Rainey's 'See See Rider.' She sings it softly, with a sinuously rocking beat that is pure Peggy Lee without losing the emotional strength of Ma Rainey's version... Although much of this overview of the blues is more pop than blues, Miss Lee brings a distinctively blueslike character to all of it. More important, she brings to the songs the warm, sensitive, often slyly dramatic qualities that have contributed to all her great performances." - John S. Wilson, New York Times, 2/2/89