Liza Minnelli Concert Review

For this year’s The Rest Is Noise festival, the Southbank Centre welcomed back living musical legend Liza Minnelli, performing at Royal Festival Hall for the first time since 1973. After thirty years as an Oscar winning global Cabaret superstar and beloved gay icon, was it worth the wait….

The refurbished and revitalised Royal Festival Hall is one of the most plush performance spaces in London. Tonight its comfortable stalls and extravagant balconies are packed with people and audible excitement.

After a brisk and enjoyable opening set from cheery crooner Clare Teal the lights dim and the stage is set. The band emerges in white dinner jackets, black tie and anticipation. It’s time to come hear the music play.

Liza Minnelli rushes onto the stage and is immediately hit by the spotlight. She explodes instantly into a constantly breathless ball of nervous energy. She’s wrapped in a flowing red scarf and enough sequins to sparkle in the dark. The entire crowd immediately bursts to its feet for an unequivocal standing ovation. An act of devoted worship set to be repeated before, during and after every song to come.

For the first few songs the music is practically inconsequential, lost amongst Minnelli’s trademark breathy twitching, relentless quips and frequent audience screams of “We Love You Liza”. Finally the audience and the icon calm down just enough to be musically reminded this really is The Liza Minnelli performing, as she sings Liza with a Z.

At 66 years young, you’d be forgiven by anyone but this crowd for questioning whether or not Liza still has the physical and vocal stamina that’s seen her showered in awards and adoration for so many decades. Once she retreats to the static comfort of a high stool, the true quality of her unforgettable voice finally emerges.

The deep dramatic tones and throaty melody that makes her singing instantly recognisable have actually endured surprisingly well. Any occasional fragility in Minnelli’s voice feels more like a deliberate performance than a flaw. Perpetually startled and gasping for air is just the great diva’s style.

After sighing her way through the crowd pleasing What makes a man a man, Liza briefly takes pause to listen to pianist Billy Solo croon. Armed with an audible second wind, Liza finally delivers precisely what the audience came to see, inspiring full powered renditions of Maybe This Time and Cabaret.

For several magical minutes the Royal Festival Hall in the heart of modern London is transformed into the Kit Kat Klub in the sordid midst of the 1930s Weimer Republic. Minnelli is once again Sally Bowles, enchanting the frenzied audience to clap till their euphoric hands are happily raw.

After that Liza parades her way through a few more songs before triumphantly climaxing with New York New York. Drawn back onto the stage by thunderous applause for an encore, the immortal diva fittingly stands proud for an impressive acapella goodbye.

Turns out it was definitely worth the 30 year wait after all.

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