Natalie Douglas: Tribute: Bassey

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Natalie Douglas

Tribute: Bassey

Birdland, NYC, June 15, 2018

Reviewed by Ron Forman for Cabaret Scenes

Natalie Douglas
Photo: Kevin Alvey

I was fortunate and privileged to have seen Dame Shirley Bassey perform live on two occasions. Having said that, I feel qualified to say that Natalie Douglas captured the essence of Bassey in her tribute show at Birdland.

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As she has done in previous tributes to Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and others, Douglas does not try to imitate, but rather sings in a style and type of voice of the performer. Saying that ”Shirley Bassey does not get on stage to whisper,” she belted out almost all of the Bassey numbers in this show. Douglas has an engaging stage manner and her frequent off-the-cuff remarks are usually quite amusing. 

She came out belting “Big Spender.” After saying that Bassey was the only singer who could belt out a love song, Douglas showed that she could do that, too, with her performance of  George Harrison’s “Something,” a recording that was a bigger hit for Bassey in England than was the one by the Beatles. Douglas channeled the tender side of Bassey with Jacques Brel’s  “If You Go Away” (with Rod McKuen’s English lyric). Her very dramatic “Diamonds Are Forever” was a reminder of why Bassey was called “The James Bond Girl.

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” She covered two of the legend’s signature songs, “I (Who Have Nothing)” and “Never, Never, Never,” with a big Bassey-like sound. Bassey is an artist who created her own persona, so it was fitting that Douglas closed with a rousing “I Am What I Am.” Her encore: the song most closely associated with Bassey, a very loud and stirring “Goldfinger.”

Ron Forman

Ron Forman has been a Mathematics Professor at Kingsborough Community College for 45 years. In that time, he has managed to branch out in many different areas. From 1977 to 1994 he was co-owner of Comics Unlimited, the third largest comic book distribution company in the USA. In 1999,after a lifetime of secretly wanting to do a radio program, he began his weekly Sweet Sounds program on WKRB 90.3 FM, dedicated to keeping the music of the Great American Songbook alive and accessible. This introduced him to the world of cabaret, which led to his position as a reviewer for Cabaret Scenes.