Concert Performances - The 1990s

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March 1990: The Ballroom, New York
Songs included: Johnny Guitar / Fever / Where Can I Go Without You? / Boomerang / I'll Give It All to You / Circle in the Sky / I Just Want to Dance All Night / There'll Be Another Spring / Squeeze Me / Sans Souci / Is That All There Is? / See See Rider / The Shining Sea / You Don't Know / I'll Be Seeing You

    "Peggy Lee has been writing songs for more than 40 years, and she usually includes several of them in her programs. Her new show, 'The Peggy Lee Songbook,' is a showcase for lyrics she has written over the years to the music of a variety of composers... There was a great deal of variety in her lyrics, too, but it was not always apparent because Miss Lee maintained a subdued, sometimes trancelike manner of singing that created a sense of similarity from one song to another. But the warm, throaty quality of her singing and the twinkle that lit up her eyes and touched her voice still made her music pure Peggy Lee." - John S. Wilson, New York Times, 3/8/90

    "Lyrics spill from Peggy Lee with an unmatched combination of nonchalance and credibility. Her strength is simplicity and, as Duke Ellington declared, simplicity is the most complex form. No tricks, no filigree lines, no scat. Just words, simply phrased - saucy, tender, plaintive, joyous - with insouciant artistry. Such ease of delivery isn't easy, of course; it is sculpted and polished with uncanny understanding... The wispiness of Lee's voice has increased as she approaches her 70th birthday, but it remains vibratoless and warm, like a rhythmic soft wind." - Stuart Troup, Newsday, 3/8/90

    "For either style or content, it would be hard to beat Peggy Lee, currently on view at the Ballroom. A consummate musician and singer, she makes it all look so easy... Lee's cool passion invests her songs with an utterly fetching verity. You just sort of lean forward into her interpretations and let them run down your central nervous system, savoring every note and nuance." - Bob Harrington, New York Post, 3/9/90

May 1991: Raymond Theater, Pasadena, California
Songs included: Amazing / Fever / Is That All There Is? / Where Can I Go Without You? / Just One of Those Things / He's a Tramp / Big Spender / The Folks Who Live on the Hill / See See Rider / As Time Goes By / Johnny Guitar / I Just Want to Dance All Night / The Wind Beneath My Wings / I'll Be Seeing You

    "'I'm glad I was never afraid of mice,' laughed Peggy Lee, who was seated center stage in her patented platinum bangs, her long French eyelashes, and a mummy-like black costume that had her immobilized in writhing, feathery boas. No mouse appeared, which was a good thing, because as everyone in the glittering Pasadena audience knew, the 69-year-old singer couldn't very well get up from her chair and flee should one get on her. But of course they also knew about her recent victory over the Mickey Mouse folks, so they knew she wasn't scared... As her confidence built, that easy touch of hers grew surer and sweeter, and by the time she got to 'See See Rider' she could do no wrong. 'As Time Goes By' would have made Dexter Gordon weep... And the choice of Hildegard's old theme song, 'I'll Be Seeing You,' for the finale...told the world that Peggy Lee, who's been killing us softly for better than fifty years, knows how to spring that mousetrap." - Tony Gieske, Hollywood Reporter, 5/13/91

July 1992: Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood California
Joint concert with Mel Tormé
Songs included: I Don't Want to Go Home (w/ Tormé) / Yes Indeed (w/ Tormé) / Here's to You (w/ Tormé) / Fever / Mañana / I Don't Know Enough About You / Why Don't You Do Right? / Things Are Swingin' / Circle in the Sky / I Just Want to Dance All Night / Forever / Is That All There Is? / I'll Be Seeing You

    "It was a memorable evening for Lee and her fans. Since a Pasadena concert in May 1991, she had been inactive, due to a variety of ailments including a form of paralysis. Greatly improved now, she was able to walk onstage and sit down to offer glowing evidence that the Lee timbre, the Lee phrasing and the Lee sensitivity are undiminished... How many singers can end a set with a slow ballad and draw a standing ovation?" - Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times, 7/29/92

    "Toward the end of the evening, they ambled onto the stage as though they had just stepped off the top of a wedding cake, Miss Peggy Lee in eyelashes and wig, Mel Tormé in jowls and dinner jacket. In separate turns they'd already left the audience limp, or at least well-pleased. Now it was time for their first joint appearance in 41 years... Lee was only a hair less vibrant, but her balladic savvy is such that she grabbed the 11,000 present on the second number... And, of course, she nailed down 'Is That All There Is?' with its uniquely cornfed jaundice, a perfect fit for Lee's somehow starry-eyed disillusionment. All things considered it turned out to be plenty." - Tony Gieske, Hollywood Reporter, 7/20/92

July-August 1992: Club 53, New York Hilton, New York
Songs included: 'S Wonderful / Our Love Is Here to Stay / Why Don't You Do Right? / Fever / Mañana / Just for a Thrill / Walking Happy / I Love Being Here with You / Moments Like This / Yes Indeed / Do I Love You? / Always True to You in My Fashion / Is That All There Is? / Nice 'n' Easy / I'm in Love Again / Remind Me / I Don't Know Enough About You / Them There Eyes / Circle in the Sky / He's a Tramp / I'll Be Seeing You

    "The most remarkable thing about Peggy Lee, who at age 72 still personifies high-style nightclub glamour, is her sheer tenacity. The singer has difficulty walking. Several strokes have given her speech a pronounced slur. Her singing voice, which was never large, is now severely diminished in size and range and has a noticeable wobble. Her eyesight also seems to be failing. Yet in performance, Miss Lee treats these difficulties as minor inconveniences. Together, her willpower, musicality and professionalism enable her to project a fair degree of the old magic... Miss Lee hasn't lost the knack of making small rhythmic gestures and subtle changes of intonation imply volumes of information. With just the tiniest adjustments in her swiveling rhythmic mannerisms she was able to suggest deep changes of attitude. The evening's ballads...were infused with an autumnal dreaminess, as though the singer were contemplating past loves from a wistful, almost otherworldly distance." - Stephen Holden, New York Times, 8/3/92

    "As she began her act to a tumultuous ovation, she said, 'There's something special about tonight. Not only did I get back to New York, but I walked to this chair. I've been lying prone for a year.' The whole thing is indeed special... She still knows how to control a room and the sound is still that special sound. What Lee has done is heroic, and the most amazing part of it is that she manages to make herself seem not at all heroic, but simply the familiar, unpretentious legend." - Howard Kissel, New York Daily News, 7/31/92

    "Indomitable. Write that down. Then write down: Peggy Lee... She sang a reflective and subdued 'S Wonderful,' rocking slightly from side to side, and when she came to 'you've made my life so glamorous,' I thought, my God, how long has she been making all our lives just a little bit, just a lot more glamorous, all the way back to the Benny Goodman days. She sang fast and light and up-tempo; she sang several lovely ballads - including her own - in which she seemed, or made us think she seemed, to go inside herself... And, of course, she sang her trademark songs, as pure, hot, light, strong, powerful as ever... The voice holds, only the vessel has changed." - Jerry Tallmer, New York Post, 7/30/92

    "By the time she began her second number, she had everyone enchanted. From her chair, in this sweet, soothing slice of a voice, she commanded our attention. And though all she may have is this glorious, paper-thin sliver, it is pitch-perfect and marvelous, buttery smooth, soft and delicate as jasmine petals... In all, this is a show you'll hate yourself for missing - satisfying, funny, sentimental, and filled with all sorts of dandy flourishes. Lee remains the consummate pro, and her musicians are equally impressive." - Bill Ervolino, source unknown, 7/31/92

September 1992: Circle Star Center, San Francisco, California
Songs included: Why Don't You Do Right? / Mañana / See See Rider / He's a Tramp / I Don't Know Enough About You

    "Lee can weave spells with her voice, but she's also a truth-teller. After all, this was the woman who sang 'Is That All There Is?,' one of the boldest acts of demythologizing in the history of popular song... Her vocal power is obviously not what it was when she belted out hit after jazz hit in the '40s. But her sense of phrasing has the kind of grace and dignity that doesn't come with youth. You can hear the self-knowledge in the way she delivers a lyric. When she softly sustains a note and the pitch slightly wavers, her depth of emotion and breadth of intelligence more than compensate. She's economical with her singing but altruistic with her soul... This wasn't a show about camp. Miss Peggy Lee is still too cool for that." - Barry Walters, San Francisco Examiner, 9/21/92

December 31, 1992: Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills, California
Songs included: I Love Being Here with You / Fever / Is That All There Is? / As Time Goes By / I'll Be Seeing You / Auld Lang Syne

    "What better way to break in the New Year than with the cool, caressing sound of Peggy Lee? Thursday evening, this resilient woman offered evidence of a talent that has weathered countless storms of health problems and changes in popular taste... She never was, never will be, a belter; throughout her performance, which ended just after midnight with 'Auld Lang Syne,' she displayed the capacity for understatement that has long been a key to her art... Unlike any other singer not of African descent, Peggy Lee can sing the blues with a genuine feeling for the idiom. One very moving moment was a minor blues that sounded like a variant of 'Fever' slowed down, with admirable guitar backing by Paul Viapino... Only one adjective can sum up Lee's artistry, today perhaps more than ever: Inspiring. She could give lessons to almost every singer, male or female, who currently dominates the pop music charts." - Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times, January 2, 1993.

August 31, 1993: Concord Jazz Festival, Concord, California
Joint concert with Mel Tormé
Songs included: I Love Being Here with You / 'S Wonderful / Fever / The Folks who Live on the Hill / Is That All There Is? / Always True to You in My Fashion / See See Rider

    "I doubt anyone expected the Show of the Decade performance we got from Miss Peggy Lee. We're used to that quality, those standards from Tormé, long a Concord and everyman's favorite, but Lee, who arrived on stage engulfed in layered acres of shiny white satins, with pianist Emil Palame on one arm and a supporting cane on the other, has not over the years been consistent in presenting great performances. But she exceeded that on Saturday. Hers was a performance for the ages. Not merely great - magnificent... On and on the great renditions rolled, Lee in her best voice, her Mabel Mercer sit-down style, her flippant asides, her fan blowing the feathers about, the video screen projecting herself many times larger behind her - not always flatteringly. But if Lee isn't the girlish Norma Egstrom we first saw singing with Benny Goodman in 1941, she still is the voice that vocalized into our hearts with Benny and his most exciting and adventurous band. Abruptly, Lee said, 'I love Basie and Leadbelly,' then floated into 'See See Rider,' inventing lyrics along the way - followed by an astonishing five minutes of ad-lib blues with guitarist Paul Vipiano in magnificent support... Lee and Tormé, seated, performed a duet briefly to end the show - a tender, heart-wrenching experience. It's an event not likely to happen again; none wanted it to end." - Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner, 8/2/93

June 1995: JVC Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall, New York
Joint concert with Mel Tormé and Marian McPartland
Songs included: That Old Feeling / Remind Me / Fly Me to the Moon / Some Cats Know / Them There Eyes / The Folks Who Live on the Hill / Always True to You in My Fashion / Some Cats Know / You Don't Know / Fever / See See Rider / I'll Be Seeing You

    "One should never underestimate the power of star quality and tenacity to pull a singer through a difficult performance. In a rare appearance at Carnegie Hall on Saturday evening, an ailing Peggy Lee wove an eerie spell that transcended a vocal capacity so diminished that her voice was little more than a wobbly murmur. Within the limited mobility left to her, Miss Lee still swings, although quietly. Looking a lot like Mae West in her later years, the 75-year-old singer also conveyed more than a glimmer of the smoldering sexuality that made her the most glamorous nightclub singer of the 1960s. Miss Lee, who shared the bill with Mel Tormé in a concert that was a flagship event of the JVC Jazz Festival, was accompanied by a quintet led by Mike Renzi, whose pianism was exquisitely attuned to her every nuance. The singer's versions of ballads...had the sad and disturbing quality of someone trying to remember an elusive dream. Up-tempo songs...were phrased with a sly, finger-snapping acuity that showed Miss Lee in solid rhythmic command. A minimalist who could always stir up more action simply by rolling her eyes than most singers by shouting and stomping, Miss Lee remains a master of the small gesture that has earthshaking implications... Miss Lee's mystique and Mr. Tormé's technique made for a very full and satisfying concert." - Stephen Holden, New York Times, 6/26/95

    "How do you explain the profound magic that is Peggy Lee? How do you explain the power of this woman - who, quite naturally, has much less voice and energy now than she had forty years ago - to unsettle emotions, to touch hearts? Some things are beyond explaining. Witnessing them, you feel awe and gratitude. Saturday at Carnegie Hall (where Lee shared a double-bill with Mel Tormé), her physical gestures and vocal inflections were minimalist. And yet with the slightest shrug, hint of a sweet/sad smile, or upturn of a warm, smoky note, she said volumes. 'And when the kids grow up -' she sang in 'The Folks Who Live on the Hill,' pausing longer than other singers would risk, before finishing the line: 'and leave us...' And in that pause, enough was implied about time's inexorable passage to make you cry... She drew strength from the audience, finishing her short set with more assurance than when she started (seeming frail, tired). The audience gave her a standing ovation (which they did not give Tormé). By the time she wrapped things up with an emotion-drenched 'I'll Be Seeing You,' the question was: What could Tormé add?... For the first time in JVC history, Tormé had the show stolen from him by another singer." - Chip Deffaa, New York Post, date unknown.

    "One didn't know quite what to make of the lush, creamy pink apparition that was gently steered to a comfy chair on the Carnegie Hall stage Saturday night. It seemed so fragile that one was almost afraid that the thunderous applause greeting its appearance would shatter it into a million crystalline pieces. Then from deep inside this vision came a taut, tender voice that seems to have been with us forever, singing 'That Old Feeling.' It wasn't a dream. It was Peggy Lee. She's 75 years old and so hobbled in recent years by health problems that she did her whole set sitting down. Still, this most minimalist of jazz pop giants had enough magic and power to transform the grand old concert hall into her own intimate lounge. Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra may be the only other singers alive capable of such alchemy. Of those two, Sinatra is Lee's sole peer as a lasting presence and influence in American music." - Gene Seymour, Newsday, date unknown.

August 1995: Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, California
Joint concert with Mel Tormé and George Shearing
Songs included: Fever / Why Don't You Do Right? / Mañana / You Don't Know

    "There was more than a century and a half of show business experience on stage at the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday night. George Shearing, 75, Peggy Lee, 75, and Mel Tormé, 69, have been headliners in their profession since the dark years of World War II. Perhaps, inevitably, a concert featuring veteran performers often becomes a summing up of greatest hits, showcased within a framework of vitality and longevity... Lee's set was long on style and manner. Various infirmities now obligate her to perform while seated, and her voice, while occasionally hardy, rarely revealed the small subtleties of inflection and timbre that were once her stock in trade. Although she sang such trademark tunes as 'Fever' and 'Why Don't You Do Right?,' she was at her finest on an easygoing blues, 'You Don't Know.' Lee should, however, give serious consideration to eliminating the painfully dated 'Mañana' from her repertoire. - Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times, 8/4/95