Ute Lemper returned again to the Royal Festival Hall bringing with her onto the stage something more than ever before. Her repertoire was taken mainly from her new album But One Day
, consisting of compositions from Astor Piazzolla, Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel and which, for the first time, features Lemper's own works.
The scene and ambience for an evening of Berlin cabaret songs, French songs and tangos were immediately set by her presence on stage, aided by her red-sequined dress, black bowler hat, long black coat, and accessorized with a red feather boa. She was joined by the 12-strong Matrix Ensemble; a sexy combination of guitar, piano, accordion, strings, bass, saxophone and clarinet, all essential to achieve the sultry sound of cabaret and tango.
Lemper built a rapport with the audience, engaging in friendly banter before an introduction to each song. Her repertoire this evening was indeed varied, accentuated by the juxtaposition of song styles which allowed Lemper to demonstrate her broad range and her consummate ability to interpret French songs and Berlin cabaret songs.
Her exquisite performance opened with a rendition of Piazzolla's tango 'Buenos Aires'. Here, Lemper's similarity with Edith Piaf was unmistakable, only to be affirmed in 'Ne Me Quitte Pas'. Nick Cave's 'Little Water Song' and Hans Eisler's 'Ballad of Marie Sanders' both exposed Lemper's ability to paint the texture of a song with her rich tones and 'Speak Low' reminded us of Lemper's tribute to Kurt Weill.
A true highlight of the evening was Lemper's performance of her long-awaited own compositions. Lemper's lyrics in 'But One Day', the title track, and 'Lena' portray her emotions and thought through stories of sorrow and happiness. They are the result of inspiration and creativity amalgamating in order to add 'composer' to Lemper's description.
The cabaret songs allowed Lemper to flaunt her stage flamboyance, which did not fail to mesmerize the audience. 'Amsterdam' was particularly special as this year marks the 25th anniversary of Jacques Brel's death. Lemper ended her main set with a bilingual rendition of 'Mack the Knife', uniquely performed in the styles of cabaret, jazz, rock and returning to cabaret. This, coupled with her first encore 'Sex Appeal', reminded us of her stunning stage performance in Chicago as Velma Kelly, which won her the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
Most of all, this evening reconfirmed Lemper's accolade of unrivalled interpreter of cabaret songs, French songs as well as composer, concert artist and performer. Often compared to Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich, Ute Lemper is, in her own right, electrifying diversity.