Lisa Loeb—Cafe Carlyle
Date Seen: June 6, 2017
Cost of Ticket: $135 US
Lisa Loeb, household name of the late 90s, began her residency at famed Cafe Carlyle tonight. Cafe Carlyle has hosted many greats in the past: from the late Bobby Short (who held a 36 year residency here), Chita Rivera, Woody Allen, Debbie Harry, Allan Cummings, Sutton Foster, Megan Hilty and so many more. Throwing Lisa Loeb into the mix might seem like an unusual choice, however, her endearing personality and charm of storytelling are hard to match. And we can't forget, Lisa was the first unsigned artist to ever have a #1 hit.
Lisa opened the night with her charming smile and dove right into one of her biggest hits "Truthfully." Her and her guitar lit up the room as she filled the room with music. Her friendly interaction with the crowd showcases her experience as an entertainer and her true southern hospitality. She recalls how she was specifically asked to write a song for a movie, and did so, and the movie rejected her song. But she recorded it anyhow and another hit was made. Cue the next song.
She continues her setlist with her hits, a few new songs and even a few songs from her children's albums. Let's be very clear—the Cafe Carlyle is a very 'grown-up' venue but Lisa makes even the kid's music enjoyable and laughs are had. Afterall, how could a "Disappointing Pancake" not end in a giggle or two? It's a well calculated break from some of her more emotional material.
Lisa's voice is pitch perfect and clear as a bell. Decades of performing have only made her more comfortable on stage and relaxed in front of the microphone. She gracefully goes from melancholy melodies to sweet yodeling to tender and deep love songs. But Lisa is fully aware of her crowd and throws in a few surprise standards for good measure—as if to prove to the crowd that she is more than just an indie artist. She masterfully sings her way through Nat King Cole's "Smile (Though Your Heart is Breaking)" and "Rainbow Connection" which she dueted with Alexis Michelle (her cousin and contestant on Season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race). These were both highlighted by the piano accompaniment of Mr. Ted Baker (Steely Dan, The Lion King, etc.).
Finally, nothing was better than Lisa's interaction with the audience. From keeping the crowd thoroughly engaged with her stories to having a conversation with an audience member who sang Lisa's song at her own wedding, Lisa was enjoying every minute of it. She had a bit of technical difficulty when her guitar went out of tune half way through her set. But she only laughed and joked as she got the guitar back into shape and carried on with the show. And in a gutsy movie, she opened the floor to requests. She nailed both requests and continued with a bit of a back story for each of the songs. As a singer/songwriter, the songs are part of her and her familiarity with the music is both artistic and professional.
Cafe Carlyle is a small intimate venue for approximately 50 guests. It is the perfect place to showcase someone like Lisa who is a gifted singer/musician but also a wonderful entertainer. She was very gracious and met with guests after her show. This is the Lisa that I remember from when I met her at Lilith Fair in 1998. The years have not changed her and I expect we will continue to watch Lisa's career evolve over the next twenty years.