John Lloyd Young: Heart to Heart

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John Lloyd Young

Heart to Heart

Café Carlyle, NYC, February 13, 2018

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

John Lloyd Young
Photo: David Andrako

“You’re just too good to be true,” especially when John Lloyd Young returns for the sixth year to the Café Carlyle, again for Valentine’s Day. In dark blue tuxedo and black sunglasses, the lyrics from Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio’s 1967 hit, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” is still a spellbinder. The 43-year-old tenor who shot to fame playing Frankie Valli in Broadway’s Jersey Boys is certainly no one-hit wonder. His voice, well trained, has grown more lush over the years, gaining intriguing layers, crooning with sensuality and soaring into a sweet falsetto that has few equals.

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In a previous Carlyle show, Young claimed he wears shades so “we can be in a cocoon, just me, you, and the music.” Maybe so. Or maybe it indicates a reserve that plays against his mix of emotional romanticism and bare vulnerability always palpable in Young’s songbook and so irresistible to his loyal fans. When he opens with “You Only Live Twice” (John Barry/ Leslie Bricusse), he creates an aura of danger, building in tension. When he takes off his shades to croon Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby’s “Nevertheless (I’m in Love with You),” he is presenting a lace Valentine heart for lovers. 

With the first chords from a 1950s arrangement of a 1930s classic, Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish’s “Star Dust,” the JLY stalwarts in the audience got what they came from, a revisit to the mid-20th-century doo-wop sound. Other favorites from the era included Harry Nilsson’s “One” with its opening line, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.”

He recalled the voice of Roy Orbison in “Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)” by Orbison and Joe Melson. In the same vein, he delivered George Teren and Tom Shapiro’s “Say No More,” a song released in 2001 that sounds like 1961. Remembering a recent visit to Cuba with Smokey Robinson, he included the mega-hit of 1965, “Ooo Baby Baby” (Robinson/Pete Moore). 

Young is more outgoing than he was when he first appeared at the Carlyle, signing CDs for new-comers, name-dropping, and there’s a subtle undercurrent of politics. He finds the core of emotional songs and includes them in his repertoire, like Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love,” dedicated to two gay couples celebrating wedding anniversaries. He also sang a beautiful “Usted” (Gabriel Ruiz) in Spanish to a lady in the audience, later asking her in Spanish where she came from—”Ecuador.” 

Young was notable in his renditions of “The Impossible Dream” (Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion) and brought the audience to its feet with Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” They remained on their feet for the encore, “Sherry.

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Heartache and a bit heartwarming, Young keeps getting better, and kudos go to his exceptional band led by music director/arranger/pianist/vocal backup Tommy Faragher, versatile violinist Gokce Erem, and Bashiri Johnson’s exotic percussion accompaniment. 

Elizabeth Ahlfors

Born and raised in New York, Elizabeth graduated from NYU with a degree in Journalism. She has lived in various cities and countries and now is back in NYC. She has written magazine articles and published three books: A Housewife’s Guide to Women’s Liberation, Twelve American Women, and Heroines of ’76 (for children). A great love was always music and theater—in the audience, not performing. A Philadelphia correspondent for and InTheatre Magazine, she has reviewed theater and cabaret for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia City News. She writes for Cabaret Scenes and other cabaret/theater sites. She is a judge for Nightlife Awards and a voting member of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Bobbi

    I do wish he would come to Central, FL. I can’t fly to CA😢

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