A whiff of David Bowie hung over the air at the Café Carlyle as Lena Hall opened her two-week run. Whipping her head punk style, Hall treated her audience to her bad girl history with boys as a way of explaining how a nice girl got here, musically. “I’m pretty sure no one has done a Sex Pistols song at Café Carlyle,” Hall introduced “Holiday in the Sun,” a John Lydon collaboration with John Beverly, Paul Cook, and Steve Jones, and went on to cover The Beatles (“I Want to Hold Your Hand”), Billy Joel (“We Didn’t Start the Fire”), and Elton John (“Someone Saved My Life Tonight”). Rocking on, Lena Hall gave details about the various boys, and her dark side, but it is her voice that emerges, and a story of how music saved her from marriage to the wrong guy.
This for drama: Last year, playing The Carlyle, she wore a gardenia in her hair and a floral print dress evoking Lady Day, and sang female influenced songs. This year’s show shifts to the male vocalists for inspiration, and yet she has a girly moment putting on a strapless wedding dress, over her strapless sheath. She tells the audience that she wore it for her last night of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, in celebration, and had everyone sign it. Of course she won a Tony for her rocker role as Yitzhak. For Bowie’s “Five Years,” she crooned, her lower notes tremolo, “I wish I was special,” left the stage and returned for Radiohead’s “Creep.” Her band: Justin Craig on guitar, Watt White, music director and bass, Brian Fishler on drums provides the perfect rock accompaniment, with show director Stephen Amato helping to tease out the narrative. Her punk persona may be unusual for the Carlyle, and well worth checking out.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.