REVIEW: SINATRA RAW (Live at Zedel) ★★★★★

Frank Sinatra died in 1998, his last performance was in 1995 and he gave many final farewell performances over his long career. Richard Shelton recreates a late night in 1971 around half way through his singing career when he performed in the Purple Room in Palm Springs to an audience of friends, as a warm up to one of those farewell concerts and over the course of the show reminisces about his life to date and sings some of his biggest hits.

Following a successful run at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2018, he brings the show to the intimate Art Deco Crazy Coqs in the basement of Zedel’s restaurant in the heart of the West End, for a short run.

Sinatra Raw is a remarkable eighty minutes, in which he recreate the nervous mannerisms, tone and phrasing that made Sinatra one of the most successful, distinctive and memorable pre-rock-and-roll singers that has given him such an enduring following . But this is more than a concert, as we are given real insight into the man behind the sparkling blue eyes, distinctive nose and wide smile that first catches the eye. Over the course of the evening, fuelled by his best friend Jack Daniels, he reveals his love for (and disappointment with) Ava Gardner, his hatred for actor Peter Lawford of the Rat Pack, his campaigning for Jack Kennedy and his concern over the bigotry and prejudice he encountered in his life. It is touching and compelling to watch.

Most of all, we enjoy over the evening his versions, accompanied by just a pianist, of “All or nothing”(1939) , “I have got you under my skin” (1953) , “It was a very good year”(1961), “I am a fool to want you”(1954), “Angel Eyes” (1958), and “That’s life” (1966). By the end he visibly relaxes and enjoys a short any requests session when he delivers snatches of many songs requested by the audience including “The lady in the trump” (1956) . Then as you would expect he leaves with two of his biggest hits “My way” (1969) and “New York, New York” (1980).

The audience at the Crazy Coqs were mesmerised and enthralled by the performance. Some have been lifelong fans like the lady near me who queued in 1975 to get a ticket for her mother for the Sinatra’s concert at the London Palladium with Sarah Vaughan. Others I am sure know less about the man but all were seduced by his charm , drunken vulnerability and wonderful voice and were left believing that “Ol blue eyes is back” (his 1973 album).

Reviewed by Nick Humby


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