Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome (and of course, ‘Hullawrerr Chinas!’, for any visitors from Glasgow), meine damen und herren. Tonight, this part of Edinburgh may journey through space and time to the Wiemar Republic, or the Paris of Piaf? Passports are strictly optional.
Ute Lemper last graced an Edinburgh stage at a packed Usher Hall during the 2014 International Festival. Tonight, the surroundings are much more intimate, cabaret tables with candles. This is to be an up close and personal performance. Goody.
Preceded by her three piece band (on piano, double bass and accordion), Lemper enters the arena, opening with Want to Buy Some Illusions, followed by Falling in Love Again, in its original German version.
During a rousing version of Mack the Knife, Lemper dons a bowler hat, as she effortlessly switches from German to English.
Spoliansky’s It’s All a Swindle (a song for our political times?) is followed by The Lavender Song, an early anthem for LGBT rights.
The ghost of Dietrich returns in a haunting rendition of Lili Marleen, rich in resonant rolling R’s that feel almost Scottish in nature.
Lemper mentions her days at theatre school in Vienna and displays those skills as she sings. While she has an excellent voice, Lemper truly performs the songs. She is a master storyteller.
Throughout her performance, Lemper regularly deploys a distinctive microphone technique, moving it a few inches back and forth from her mouth, creating an oscillating Doppler shift in the notes.
Brel’s classic Ne Me Quitte Pas has Lemper initially almost speaking the lyrics, conveying the heartache that lies behind the song’s tragic origins, before her voice soars, showcasing both power and passion. Staying with Brel, we are treated to a glorious version of Amsterdam where Lemper alternates between French and English.
The party’s over? Not quite yet. After taking their bows, Lemper and her talented band remain on stage for the playful, They Call Me Naughty Lola.
The audience take to their feet to express their appreciation. It is richly deserved. While tonight’s songs may have come from bygone eras, Lemper has shown that classy performers are indeed timeless.