Nellie McKay wants to live! (and will at Anthology)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 14:59
Posted in category In the News, Upcoming Shows

Acclaimed singer-songwriter and her band perform here Sunday

By George Varga |

Nellie McKay

Nellie McKay

There’s a sound reason singer-songwriter Nellie McKay has earned almost uniformly rave reviews since the release of her 2004 debut album: She’s terrific. She also rarely performs in these parts, which makes her Sunday concert at downtown’s all-ages Anthology a show of particular note.

Equally gifted as a musician, actress and satirical artistic provocateur, this London-born, New York-based maverick excels at jazz, pop and cabaret-styled torch songs that predate her birth by decades. Her repertoire has also included subversive rap parodies of Eminem, bubbly folk-pop, Tin Pan Alley ballads, Broadway-styled jaunts, urbane swing and more.

“I’m pretty indiscriminating, and I have awful taste, generally,” McKay told me, only half in jest, during a 2007 San Diego Union-Tribune interview.

At 27, McKay has five albums to her credit, including 2009’s often sublime “Normal As Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day.” Her 2006 double-album, “Pretty Little Head,” found her easily holding her own when duetting with such veteran singers as k.d. lang and Cyndi Lauper.

McKay and Lauper first teamed in an off-Broadway production of “The Three Penny Opera,” in which McKay played the role of Polly Peachum and Lauper was cast as the prostitute Jenny. (McKay fared well enough that she subsequently performed in a Broadway production of “Three Penny Opera,” as part of a cast that co-starred Edie Falco and Alan Cumming.)

Like Randy Newman before her, she infuses a distinctly idosyncratic sense of humor in some of her songs. On “Mother of Pearl,” McKay (a devoted equal-rights advocate) takes barbed aim at feminism while throwing in a few tap-dancing segments (!) for good measure.

The song includes such memorable zingers as: They say child molestation isn’t funny / Rape and degradation’s just a crime / Rampant prostitution, sex for money / Can’t these chicks do anything but whine?

What results on “Mother of Pearl” evokes Randy Newman’s controversial 1977 hit “Short People,” which skewered bigotry by pretending to champion it.

“I really don’t care what people say. It’s amazing that feminism continues to exist at all, considering how much counter-feminism is out there,” McKay said. “So, I’m glad if people can listen to some music and maybe fix some prejudices of their own, just by thinking.”

McKay’s current concert tour with her five-piece band showcases her ingenious musical adaptation of “I Want To Live!” — a 1958 movie that starred Susan Hayward as Barbara Graham (who in 1955 became the third woman to die in the gas chamber at San Quentin).

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WHAT: Nellie McKay – “I Want to Live!”
WHEN: Sunday, July 10th, 2011, 7:00pm
TICKETS: $12-$39 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile