If anyone needed evidence that Michael Feinstein and Sandi Patty are among the finest entertainers in show business, there was ample proof when the two shared the stage on Saturday at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
Playing to a packed house, five-time Grammy-nominated Feinstein and Patty, aka “The Voice,” were both in spectacular form as they dazzled the audience with their potent vocals and seasoned showmanship. Having seen both artists numerous times over the years, I can report this particular concert was one of the most explosive performances for each of them I have ever seen.
Accompanied by noted pianist-arranger Ted Firth, local musician Bill Myers on bass, and Mark McLean on drums, Feinstein commanded the stage during Act 1, primarily singing songs from the Great American Songbook. Showing off his rich baritone voice and unique styling, which has a dreamy quality filled with yearning, Feinstein launched into his set with a masterfully arranged medley comprising “Hello Young Lovers,” “It’s All Right with Me,” “Come Back to Me,” and “You Belong To Me.” He also wistfully interpreted “You and Me Against The World,” made popular by Helen Reddy. In a nod to Hoosier composer Cole Porter, Feinstein made a last-minute set change and sang “Just One of Those Things.” Especially compelling was his tribute to Stephen Sondheim, a haunting and heartrending version of “Losing My Mind” from “Follies.”
Feinstein offered a special mid-set surprise when he introduced Songbook Academy alumna Jilayne Kistner, a 15-year-old Zionsville High School student, who gave a stunning performance of “I’m the Greatest Star” from “Funny Girl.” Making the song her very own, the gifted, emerging artist showed rare talent and poise beyond her years. After she exited the stage, Feinstein remarked that “she could be on Broadway right now.” He did not exaggerate. Young Kistner is appearing in the ensemble as a featured soloist in Summer Stock Stage’s “The Addams Family” this summer. So, go and see this rising star for yourself.
Ending his set with a flourish, Feinstein sang a medley of tunes made famous by Frank Sinatra, including “Come Fly With Me,” “That’s Life, “ and “You Make Me Feel So Young.” Peppered throughout were jokes that reflected his playful sense of humor and tidbits about each song that spoke to his credentials as a music historian.
Taking the stage for Act 2 was Patty, accompanied by her top-notch trio comprising Steve Potts on piano, local artist Steve Dokken on bass, and Patty’s long-time drummer Steve Hanna. Best known as a Christian-music icon with a distinctive soprano voice and wide, expressive range, Patty handily demonstrated she can also sing secular music and may be one of the best jazz singers out there, as she performed songs from the Great American Songbook and a few tunes from her Christian repertoire.
Throughout her set, Patty, who projected the warmth, sincerity and generosity of spirit she is known for, connected with the audience the moment she bounded on stage. Patty began her performance with a vibrant interpretation of “That’s Entertainment” that literally set the tone for what was to come. She followed with a delightful ditty, “Sandi with an ‘I,’” in which she cleverly changed the lyrics of “Liza with a Z” to fit her own situation in regard to the misspelling of her first and last names. Paying tribute to Liza’s mother, Judy Garland, she also sang “Over the Rainbow,” followed by “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music,” a favorite song of hers when she was a student. In a tribute to moms for Mother’s Day, she sang the moving “We Love.” Making the song especially touching was the presence of Patty’s mother and father in the audience, as well other members of her family, whom she acknowledged lovingly. In return, one of her grandchildren yelled out, “I love you!” Reflecting her roots in the church and ability to sing from the heart, Patty regaled the crowd with the classic hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and the stirring “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” from “Carousel,” both of which illustrated why she is celebrated for her vocal attributes and inspirational impact.
Closing the show, Feinstein returned to the stage to join Patty in an endearing duet of George Gershwin’s “Love is Here to Stay.” As I listened to and observed the celebrated pair of esteemed artists harmonizing, and displaying an obvious affection for one another, it occurred to me they should consider recording an album together. Wouldn’t that be something? Having just released “Gershwin Country,” an album featuring him singing duets with major country artists, Feinstein successfully demonstrated he can sing any genre. After seeing this concert, I discovered the same is true for Patty. It would be “The Great American Songbook Ambassador” meets the “The Voice.” What a concept. It’s a marriage made in heaven, an interfaith one at that, and it would simply be perfection.