Recorded in the Caryle Café in their historic and luxurious Caryle Hotel in Manhattan, German chanteuse Ute Lemper delves deeply into underbelly of popular song -- both American and European -- and transforms the stage into a place of mystery and imagination through the sheer power and fearlessness of her sophisticated delivery. While her studio recordings have long been renowned for the chances they take, it is here, in front of a live audience, that the modern-day cabaret diva slowly and fearlessly tears at the skin of song and reveals what lies underneath its often romantic and seemingly innocent veneer. Kicking off the show with Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's "Pirate Jenny," Lemper unveils her intent. This is a snarling, daring version with her quartet supporting her slippery delivery while simultaneously pushing her out onto the wire that evokes both the ghosts of the original protagonist and the emotional depth of Edith Piaf. Next Lemper touches upon melancholy, desperate love in "Milord" by Georges Moustaki. These tracks are merely preparations for what lies in the dark heart of the set, the "Moon Medley" that juxtaposes songs on both sides of the Atlantic that rip the false romanticism from their popular interpretations: "Bilbao Song," "Alabama Song" by Brecht and Weil, Van Morrison's "Moon Dance," Sting's "Moon Over Bourbon Street," Joni Mitchell's "Mon at the Window," Arlen, Rose and Harburg's "It's Only a Paper Moon," and Tom Waits' "Grapefruit Moon" taking it out, leaving the audience and listeners literally stunned at the way the layers of wistful dreamy ponderance on the mythical star are juxtaposed against more sinister and erotic things that happen under its ghostly glow. All the while, Lemper dialogues, quips, and commands the attention of her audience with canny revelations and edgy humor. The set comes full circle as Lemper launches into "Lili Marlene," "Muenchhausen/The Baron of Lies," a lengthy, revelatory read of Michel Emer's beautiful "Accordeoniste," and finally a twisted, hilarious medley of cabaret tunes, where, along with the show theme, "Mack the Knife" enters to bear his evil grin. By the time she is finished, the spell is complete, the crowd breathless yet nearly riotous, and Lemper has successfully transformed the space of performance into the baudy poetic terrain where broken dreams and those realized are one and the same. Wondrous.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek