Her voice and style are unmistakable, her stage presence and emotions irrepressible, her talent and personality irresistible, and her full house of fully vaccinated fans was immeasurably entertained and moved when singer/songwriter Lauren Marcus brought it all to Feinstein’s/54 Below last night, as part of the blockbuster line-up for reopening weekend after a fifteen-month pandemic shutdown of live in-person performances.
The one-hour set list of twelve songs included eleven originals by the artist and one cover of a long-time favorite, interspersed with candid comments about her personal life and career, joking about her “too many feelings” and tendency to talk, and expressing her unrestrained infectious joy at being back on stage before a live audience, with her six-piece band (Rob Rokicki on piano, Charlie Rosen on drums, Mike Rosengarten on guitar, Matt Scharfglass on bass, Josh Plotner on sax, Nick Frenay on trumpet, and Jimmy O’Connell on trombone) and three back-up singers (Morgan Siobhan Green, Amara Brady, and Hana Slevin), in their group debut at the iconic nightclub.
In her signature combination of the latest sounds in contemporary indie rock with retro-pop inspiration from the ‘60s and ‘70s, fused with touches of jazz, country, and classic traditions in musical theater, Marcus’s distinctive vocals and expressive moves delivered the range of thoughts, sentiments, and reactions that come with relationships, unexpected challenges in the journey of life, and growth – or at least getting older (“shhhh!”). From upbeat anthems of triumphs in love to romantic ballads of longing and heartache to narratives of trying to figure it out and becoming more centered, every delivery was spot on and fully believable, with vocal and physical performances that ran the gamut from soft and vulnerable, to flirtatious and sexy, to down and dirty, to devastated but surviving, humorous, or empowered.
Since the majority of the numbers were self-penned, and some of her introductions to the songs revealed that they were, in fact, autobiographical, Marcus’s renditions were intimate and personal, filled with profound emotion and brimming with honesty. But even her cover of the 1970 Linda Ronstadt hit “Long Long Time” (written by Gary White) – a song to which, as a child, she would lip-sync in the mirror and make herself cry, to develop her acting skills – was performed with such affecting truth and empathy that it spotlighted her talents as both a singer and an actress, along with her consummately human and caring spirit.
Among the favorites of the evening were the up-tempo opener “Easy for You,” the highly popular “I Got the One that Got Away Back” (the first few instrumental notes of which triggered thunderous applause from her fans), the funny and insightful “Skinny and Blonde,” the introspective “Funeral” (addressing her diagnosis and struggle with alopecia, and containing resonant a cappella passages), and the closing number “Our Show” (about and dedicated to her husband and fellow performer/creator Joe Iconis). Following ongoing cheers from the audience, Marcus returned, joined by Iconis, for a real unplanned encore (Gary Busey’s “Since You’ve Gone” from the 1975 film Nashville), featuring Joe on piano, with vocals and harmonies by the pair. Though the song is about heartbreak, it made for a happy ending to the concert to see the couple together on stage.
If you couldn’t get tickets to this smashing one-night-only reopening event at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Friday, June 18 (though there’s no doubt she’ll be back), be sure to catch Lauren Marcus whenever you can; you’ll be glad that you did.
[For additional photos, visit Shoshana/@bwaySHO].