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REVIEW: Pink Martini, the continuing toast of Red Butte

Jul 12, 2019 03:44PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

When was the last time you saw someone wearing a cobalt blue gown? The Pink Martini orchestra and frontwoman-vocalist China Forbes delivered glamour and near-godly music at Red Butte. (Jennifer J. Johnson/City Journals)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected] 

It was a night of pink and green and red all over. Not a joke or a trick. Just outright enjoyment as Pink Martini administered its joyous music to the greenery and to the near-capacity crowd listening at Salt Lake’s Red Butte Amphitheatre.

They say third time’s the charm, and it sounds like a song Pink Martini could have, should have written and sung to an all-ears, big-hearted, dancing-without-moonlight audience at the Red Butte Amphitheatre. The Thursday night performance was Pink Martini’s third time to Red Butte with lead diva China Forbes.

Pink Martini is the brainchild of Harvard-chums-turned-world-café-musicians Forbes and Thomas Lauderdale. The band likes to dub itself in a backwards-looking bucket list: “If the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band.”

While Portland-spun Lauderdale conceived the band, things really started to click just a year later when he invoked Forbes. The two—and an orchestra looking like they just stepped out of a Paris café in the 1930s—create and deliver music of the world in languages from Korean to Turkish, with, rest assured, plenty of English for us Utahns.

The night started sexy — with a violin-offset-by-percussion rendition of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero.” Slowly the piano joins. Pink Martini delivers the seduction that is the song.

Pink Martini diva Forbes herself seemed seduced by Red Butte’s greenery. “The best-smelling stage ever,” she gushed, dubbing the amphitheatre “Blossom City!”

Needing, and not having any opening act, but performing two rich sets themselves, Pink Martini was aided by regular guest bandmate Jimmie Herrod. Gender aside, Herrod seems to music what Maya Angelou is to written word, delivering passion aplenty.

Pink Martini was also aided by some unexpected guests—a Turkish-speaking member of the audience, who literally leapt to the stage for the opportunity to duet, in Turkish, with Forbes. The crowd, predictably, erupted. Forbes herself was very plussed—“One of the best singers and dancers we have ever had sing that with us!” she said.

Larger numbers literally roared to the stage when Forbes invited them to, for a mass “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”-like performance to Grammy-winning 1970’s feminist Helen Reddy’s iconic “I Am Woman.”

The band, along the line of an unofficial “Keep Pink Martini Weird” campaign, also encouraged and accepted audience requests, in-between the first and second sets. This came off a bit ham-handed, but the audience loved it, as the band performed another 1970’s tune “Rapper’s Delight” and some other numbers.

Just as the previous evening’s concert saw guest vocalist and rap-cabaret sensation Boyfriend upstage band regular Miss Charm Taylor, Australian-born, international glam-cabaret celebrity Meow Meow (a.k.a. Melissa Madden Gray) upstaged the Pink Martini veteran Forbes

Kudos to both bands and both divas for eschewing jealousy in the name of art.

Pink Martini once again delivered two sets of international fun to its Salt Lake City fans.

Even the clouds shined their approval—showing sweet pink during the band’s second set. Au revoir, Pink Martini, and, à bientôt