Unfortunately, I was not present when Michael Feinstein surprised Melissa Manchester on Saturday night during their “An Evening with Michael Feinstein and Special Guest Melissa Manchester” concert at the Palladium, with an induction into the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame. But I did see the duo perform together earlier the same day during their matinee performance. It was Manchester’s first live performance in 14 months. For Feinstein, his return to performing in person actually took place the night before when he headlined during the grand opening of Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael, the upscale Carmel club that bears his name.
Accompanied by his music director and pianist Tedd Firth, his exceptional trio also included bassist Phil Palombi and drummer Mike McClean. Feinstein energetically bounded onto the stage and sang a mashup of Frank Loesser’s “Luck Be A Lady,” and “All I Need is The Girl” from “Gypsy.” After welcoming the crowd, which was small due to COVID restrictions, and commenting on his joy at performing live again, the suave and affable baritone followed with “L.O.V.E.,” “You Go to My Head” and other favorites from the Great American Songbook.
Upon concluding his first set, Feinstein introduced his longtime friend Manchester, who opened her set with comments about how thrilled she was to be in front of a live audience again before sitting down to the piano to accompany herself on “Midnight Blue,” one of her biggest hits. Turning over the piano to Firth, she then sang a very unorthodox version with unconventional phrasing of “Being Alive” from the musical “Company.” Never having heard it sung the way she did, I nevertheless enjoyed hearing her rendition. Other songs in her short set included “I’ll Never Say Goodbye,” and “Come In from the Rain.” Still vocally strong and more than capable of hitting high notes, Manchester showed, that over the passing years, she has not lost her chops, nor her passionate delivery, and can still belt with the best of them.
For me, Manchester’s music is truly part of the soundtrack of my life, and hearing her reprise some of her most well-known songs opened the floodgates of my memories, especially those from the 70s and 80s. Though her set was brief, it was thoroughly evocative, entertaining and left me yearning to hear more.
Feinstein’s second set included more standards and consisted of “Day In, Day Out” by Rube Bloom and Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” and a wistful medley of “All My Tomorrows” by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen and “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday,” made popular by Spiral Staircase. A highlight of this set was Feinstein’s rendition, which couldn’t have been more appropriate to the pandemic and its trauma, of “One Day at a Time” by Charles de Forest.
The concert finale brought Manchester back to the stage to sing another of her most famous tunes, “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” Joining her on stage, Feinstein and she said goodbye to the audience with “Whenever I Call You Friend,” which she wrote with Kenny Loggins.
For more information about upcoming shows at The Center for the Performing Arts, go to thecenterpresents.org.