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Rian Keating: After the Fall…WomanSongs

| March 29, 2017

Rian Keating

After the Fall…WomanSongs

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, March 18, 2017

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

Rian Keating

With an overload of cabaret that seemingly put the focus on a performer’s vocal prowess, a question emerges: What value does a non-singer/songwriter cabaret artist have in today’s market place if his/her vocal ability is deemed ordinary or – worse – less than appealing?

Rian Keating seemed to almost address this by opening with the quip: “I was told not to say anything, but I just can’t help myself.”  Indeed, Keating’s vocal stylings are an acquired taste; wavering pitch, unsteady rhythm and a sometimes bellowing tone. But there’s more than meets the ear here.

In this piece Keating sends a love letter to women — both those he’s had a personal connection with as well as some he’s admired from afar. From his mother and grandmother to idols like Cleo Laine and Judy Collins, he weaves personal recollections to establish a pitch-perfect mood for each of these pieces, employing an almost guileless approach to his patter. 

Championing mainly storytelling songs, Keating gravitates towards pieces rich in metaphor, complex in language, and those with a strong narrative arc. Particularly effective were “Thieving Boy” (John Dankworth/Alun Owen), full of melodramatic vigor, and an endearing “The Picture in the Hall” (Craig Carnelia). But it was a haunting “Summer (The First Time)” (Bobby Goldsboro), dripping with nostalgia, that found him at his best. The piece recalls the singer’s first sexual experience, and Keating vacillated between sly grin and wistful earnestness. Ending the song with a devastating exhale, it only punctuated a masterful connection to the lyrics.

And therein lies the answer: by not spotlighting sonant strengths, an audience is forced to focus on the lyrics. And since the highlight of cabaret is illuminating great storytelling and experience, it’s safe to say that Rian Keating has much to offer those who seek a more text-driven experience.     

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

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