I have watched Adrienne Haan perform in various venues, but last night (October 17, 2018) she illuminated Joe’s Pub with a spectacular, larger-than-life performance that wowed an enthusiastic crowd. It was an extra dynamic show, with Haan backed by the excellent big band, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, consisting of 11 musicians for the occasion, and Haan’s long-time colleague, pianist Richard Danley, as musical director. Haan is an entertainer who can thrive in tandem with a huge sound, and she proved that the combination is potent.
The theme of her show—Haan is fond of choosing themes—was “Voluptuous Weimer—A Tribute to Berlin’s Golden Age.” The singer grew up in Germany, so she is well-versed in the country’s musical history. She sang in a mix of German and English, providing translation when needed.
Haan was a knockout in a clinging and sparkling red mini with fringe, and uninhibited on stage, she moves seductively as she shakes and shimmies to the rhythms. She has the flair of an actress, with an array of expressions that accent her lively eyes, and of course, there is the quality voice that she can apply to a wide range of songs.
Her program highlighted numbers that were popular in the days of the Weimer Republic that came on the heels of the end of World War I. Cynicism was there in “It’s All a Swindle.” Saucy sensuality was projected in “Sex Appeal.” The popular film “The Blue Angel” yielded “They Call Me Naughty Lola,” and “Falling in Love Again,” and Haan made the most of them. She also turned on the sensuality with appropriate body language as she sang “ I am a Vamp.”
Haan sang what she said was popular among women of the period--“Johnny.” She also noted that American songs were catching attention, and as examples she sang Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” and “Cheek to Cheek,” plus Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” demonstrating that she could be impressive with American songbook numbers as well as those rooted in Germany.
According to Haan, although under the Nazis American popular music was looked upon as decadent, young people gathered secretly to dance to the songs that they admired. Thus she launched into the example of “Sing Sing Sing” as adapted by Benny Goodman. The Nighthawks tore loose on that one, making Joe’s Pub jump as Haan sang, band members soloed, and Haan enthusiastically introduced musicians who stood out. She gives the impression of rooting for her musicians and makes a point of giving them enthusiastic introductions.
Other numbers in Haan’s repertoire included “Bei Mir Bistu Schein” in a tribute to the Andrews Sisters. The program included the romantic “These Foolish Things” and the lively “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” For her encore, she noted the importance of getting along together in the world today, and sang what she called an anthem of the European Union, “Lili Marleen.”
Haan holds a unique position as a classic chanteuse with modern trimmings. She comes on like a whirlwind, never lets up and has an ability to connect with an audience. When she strolls through the crowd singling out men or women to cozy up to, she is engaging rather than crass.
The Joe’s Pub show proved that she has the power to sing with a big band behind her and still stand out. Maybe it’s the band that needs the power to stand out along with her singing. At Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette Street. Reviewed October 18, 2018.