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Buster Poindexter

| October 2, 2015

Buster Poindexter

Café Carlyle, NYC, September 29, 2015

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Buster-Poindexter-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212You might first think that Buster Poindexter, poster boy for a smarmy Lounge Lizard with his mile-high pompadour and black-rimmed glasses, is out of his element in the intimate Café Carlyle. Think again. After the first night of his all-new show, most agreed that this outré former downtown punk rock entertainer makes any element his own, holding the audience in one hand and a glass of unidentified liquid in the other.

“I don’t belong here,” he repeated wryly several times. “Come back Saturday night. We might have it together by then.”

He has it together right now. Poindexter aptly plays both musician and ironic funnyman. In his patter, he skipped any recap of his early days when he was still known as the rocker, David Johansen, lead singer of The New York Dolls. He did not comment on his mid-1980s transformation into “Buster Poindexter” in hip tux, no tie and a red pocket square, singing vintage jump blues, pop and calypso with a vigorous new band.

He went straight into the Buster songbook, an eclectic mix of “Club a’ Go-Go” (Eric Burdon & Alan Price), “Murder, He Says,” a 1943 Betty Hutton hit by Jimmy McHugh and Frank Loesser, and Neil Diamond’s moody “Desiree.” “Zombie Jamboree” (Lord Intruder) swayed in with a limber Caribbean mood. Delivering a jolt of New Orleans was Fay Hale/Clarence and Barbara Paul’s “Mojo Hannah,” a “gumbo cooker and alligator whipper.” With something for every taste his jokes played well and the vibe was sly and loose.

The band joined in vocals, like on the Cab Calloway favorite, “Kicking the Gong Around” (Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler) and “Mess Around” by Ahmet Ertegun, prompting some audience sing-along, especially with “Volare” (Franco Magliacci/Domenico Modugno) and Sinatra’s hit “That’s Life” (Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon).

As Poindexter says, “In the Coney Island of my mind, this is the show I’d like to see!”

His sense of timing and rhythm is strong, although the voice is gravely and his notes do not always hit the mark, especially in melodic ballads like “Deep in a Dream” (Eddie DeLange/ Jimmy Van Heusen). Nevertheless, the sentiment was evident and touching. Particularly poignant was Clyde Otis’ “This Bitter Earth,” stressing the loneliness of a life lived alone and the need for sharing. Several times, Poindexter mentioned his wife in the audience.

His fine band included Brian Mitchell on piano, Brian Koonin on guitar, Richard Hammond on upright bass, and Ray Grappone on drums, each musician having a chance to show off his riffs. The 90-minute show runs from September 29 to October 10.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews

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