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IT TAKES TWO

2014 has become the Year of the Super Tour, with a variety of power players joining forces for co-headliners determined to drive fans wild. Following in the footsteps of Bey/Jay, Eminem/Rihanna, and Drake/Lil Wayne, Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias are next in line to showcase their talents, collaborations, and playfulness in an arena tour that is guaranteed to be more party than concert. Apart, each has taken over the charts with his respective collection of hits, whether it’s Enrique’s “Hero” or Pitbull’s “Timber.” Together, they’ve produced some of the best dance-pop songs of the past five years, including “I Like It” and “I’m a Freak.” Expect to know every lyric, whether you know you do or not, and to be officially addicted to Super Tours by the end of the night.

Thu., Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m., 2014

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RECKLESS ABANDON

Despite its more emphatic title, Icona Pop’s “I Love It” isn’t quite as thrilling as Enrique Iglesias’s “I Like It.” (For one thing, the former lacks Pitbull.) But it comes pretty close! Produced by Robyn collaborator Patrik Berger and written by English electro-pop lass Charli XCX, “I Love It”—the lead single from a major-label debut reportedly due later this year—finds this fashion-conscious Swedish duo threatening to wreck shop in all kinds of ways (including throwing your shit into a bag and pushing it down the stairs) over a stomping robo-glam groove with more than a little C+C Music Factory in it. Be assured that tonight it’s gonna make you sweat.

Wed., Sept. 12, 8:30 p.m., 2012

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Burning Off Your Facial Moles is Fun!

I’ve avoided anything resembling plastic surgery for ages, mainly because I’m cheap, I hate pain, journalism isn’t a beauty contest, and I feel there’s only so much that can be done anyway. My only foray into the cosmetic enhancement arena came in the ’90s, when I had a doctor inject collagen in my lips so I could write about it, though I was only able to do so after I was revived with smelling salts. (The anesthetic was mixed in with the collagen, so you were numbed as you were being terrorized. It hurt like the devil!)

But recently, my facial moles were getting so prominent that on TV I was beginning to look like an aging Italian fishwife (which I am), and this seemed to require immediate action. Concerned, I descended on a Tribeca dermatologist for help, and he promptly told me there were two options: Either remove the moles entirely and then stitch up the holes, which would leave scarring (which he said sometimes looks even worse than the moles ever did) or simply flatten them with a small device that’s the facial equivalent of a floor sander. The moles would probably grow back eventually, but at least for some time I’d just have flat brown spots, not bulbous orbs (which I somehow never wore with the elan of, let’s say, Cindy Crawford).

I went for the latter procedure, which took all of five minutes and cost a sizable but not life-threatening $200 per mole. The process? First he pricked me with the anesthetic (painless—my skin is thicker than my lips), then sanded the things down with something that looked like a scaled-down WaterPik as if my face were a SoHo loft being renovated for resale. I felt nothing, but I did smell the stench of burning flesh, which was lovely; it meant the moles were literally being razed into thin air. The only problem was that for about 10 days afterwards, I had two reddish crevices where there used to be orbs, and they looked so borderline-icky I wanted my money back. What’s more, I wanted my moles back!

Fortunately, the spots ended up sort of healing to the point where I may look BETTER than Cindy Crawford (if not as lovely as Enrique Iglesias, who—ever the trendsetter—de-moled himself before I did). This could become addicting. Next stop: Butt stapling!

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Fake French Britney-pop for all the dads he loved before

According to a dryly worded report in Billboard last December, Britney Spears was to have collaborated with Daft Punk on a cut for what has since become the dryly moaned In the Zone. Along with the alleged sessions Spears is said to have completed with local dance-rock impresarios the DFA (the existence of which I’m unwilling to accept until someone not from the Internet confirms them), the Daft Punk track is something I’d gladly shed my tube top to hear.

Luckily, I’ve managed to locate it on Enrique Iglesias’s new album—where it shows up as “Be Yourself,” a phantom-powered exertion of ego disguised as a fuck-you (or the other way around) to apparent ambition-squashers like Julio: cream-cheese house thump, toy-guitar filigree, space-suit keyboard lather, an impassioned vocal that rides the beat like a bullet train to Vegas. Then a tap-dancing robot slam-dunks Enrique’s grief and faxes a chorus of desiccated doo-doo-doos out of its butt!

The remainder of Seven comprises bouncily anonymous dance-pop interspersed with gloopily anonymous love balladry. This is an apt reflection of Iglesias’s physical appearance, recently relieved of its uniquity via the surgical removal of a mole above his upper lip.

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Señoritas’ Choice

Marc Anthony is cool, bad—the kind of guy you hang out with. Enrique Iglesias comes off as intense—the type of guy you sleep with. And Ricky Martin, well, he’s just too good to be true; there’s no chance of getting with him. Those are the keen observations of one of the five single female friends I recently invited over to listen to a few CDs and help discern that catchall phrase for all three of the above: Latin heartthrob. And since we agreed that Martin was basically off-limits, it came down to the other two crooners to prove themselves to these señoritas.

Over in this corner, striking a pensive pose on the cover of his self-titled English-language debut, is 24-year-old, Madrid-born, Miami-raised Enrique Iglesias, gazing yonder with lip-balmed mouth agape, his head slightly down, a heather-gray shirt hugging those chiseled pecs. Maybe he’s remembering. Perhaps he’s just trying to forget.

That’s the effect Iglesias seems to be going for. The album is drenched with infatuation- or hurt-inspired emotion. The kind that still gives the singer butterflies. Iglesias delivers one romantic ballad after another with whispery, yearning vocals à la Chris Isaak. Gentle, sultry, easy on the ears. His lovesick swoons don’t take no for an answer. Some of the words—of which Iglesias helped pen at least half—border on cheese.

Seamlessly produced, overflowing with catchy riffs and danceable beats, Enrique Iglesias has the same glossy appeal as his three previous Spanish albums, with the addition of a Whitney Houston duet and a decent cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Sad Eyes.” Almost every track kicks off with a Spanish guitar—probably the producers’ idea of what makes music Latin-tinged.

He opens with his “We Are the World”-style new single, “Rhythm Divine,” the kind of anthem that’s supposed to unite nations at the Olympics—”from the coast of Ipanema to the island of Capri.” Then he gives us “Be With You,” which sounds like a discarded draft of Cher’s “Believe.” Eventually he turns up the momentum with his hip-writhing crossover hit, “Bailamos,” in which he promises, in his breathiest voice, “Tonight we dance.”

Only Latin men can get away with that kind of talk without sounding corny, my lady friends concur. Iglesias’s sexuality oozes out of every number. As the son of Casanova crooner Julio—who my mom used to get jiggy with when our furniture was still covered in plastic—Enrique makes hearts flutter. When he’s onstage, the less aged Iglesias isn’t reminiscing about the girls he loved before, but he’s still serenading all the squealing females, fantasizing about that special one he wants to give his all to.

In concert he’s intimate and vulnerable—you almost feel like rescuing him from love’s ailments. He projects that just-rolled-out-of-bed look, performing in T-shirt and jeans and sporting five o’clock shadow: very different from his loafer-wearing daddy. He’s a brooding poet searching for his muse, a boy standing in front of a bunch of girls, asking to be loved. He gives you that warped 13-year-old-girl feeling that you and he are really going to get together. Really.

He’ll invite up a screeching braces-wearing fan; she’ll embrace his lean body, holding on for dear life, crying and singing along. He bends down, holds her chin, and looks into her eyes with utter tenderness. And then, just when her life couldn’t get any better, just when she’s about to faint, he looks at her with naive sensuality and places a kiss on her lips.

Marc Anthony doesn’t quite work it the way Iglesias does, but much of that may have to do with age. Anthony has wives throwing underwear at him during concerts. Born to Puerto Rican parents in New York 31 years ago, the salsero sounds mature and classy on his current self-titled English CD—so hopelessly romantic he’s almost unfashionable. He earnestly sings of lost love, nostalgia, what could’ve been. How could you not like a guy who feels so passionate about women, and doesn’t hesitate to say so?

The first time I saw Anthony perform, in ’92—he hadn’t sold out Madison Square Garden yet—he was giving a free outdoor show in a San Juan shopping area to promote his first salsa CD. Not much of a stage presence back then; he had long curly hair smoothed down with gel or oil or mousse, and a lanky figure to boot. But as soon as the former Menudo vocal coach opened his mouth and let out the silkiest of notes, he started looking fine.

He was the one who got me listening to a more contemporary version of the kind of salsa records my parents had played at the after-parties of my birthdays when I was a kid. On his three Spanish-language collections, this generation’s biggest salsa star fused Latin beats and modern disco, showcasing a voice that built then finally exploded into exultant crescendos.

His new CD is more keyboarded, drum-programmed, and power-ballad-heavy, reminiscent of music from ’80s movies like Top Gun and An Officer and a Gentleman. He cowrote eight of the songs, and his vocal cords carry all of them. “You Sang to Me” and “That’s Okay” show off his range the best. And “My Baby You,” which Anthony wrote for his daughter, Ariana, sounds so grand it could be part of a Broadway musical—hopefully one with a better fate than The Capeman, in which he played the lead. He belts his stories with such ardor, you never doubt something really important is at stake.

Still, halfway through the album, you feel like shaking Marc out of his melancholy funk and asking him to speed things up. Which he finally does, in his top-three pop smash, “I Need to Know,” an in-your-face number that took me a while to warm up to. By album’s end, the sonero is delivering a treat for longtime fans who miss the kind of tunes that got us listening to him in the first place: “Da la Vuelta,” a beautiful little letting-go number written by big shot Emilio Estefan Jr. and Colombian wordsmith Kike Santander. Too bad finicky Anglo fans couldn’t have been introduced to Anthony and Iglesias (and Ricky Martin) in Spanish. They would’ve figured out what 30 million Latinos in the United States have known all along: We rock.


ENRIQUE IGLESIAS plays Z-100’s Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden December 16.

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Señoritas’ Choice

Marc Anthony is cool, bad—the kind of guy you hang out with. Enrique Iglesias comes off as intense—the type of guy you sleep with. And Ricky Martin, well, he’s just too good to be true; there’s no chance of getting with him. Those are the keen observations of one of the five single female friends I recently invited over to listen to a few CDs and help discern that catchall phrase for all three of the above: Latin heartthrob. And since we agreed that Martin was basically off-limits, it came down to the other two crooners to prove themselves to these señoritas.

Over in this corner, striking a pensive pose on the cover of his self-titled English-language debut, is 24-year-old, Madrid-born, Miami-raised Enrique Iglesias, gazing yonder with lip-balmed mouth agape, his head slightly down, a heather-gray shirt hugging those chiseled pecs. Maybe he’s remembering. Perhaps he’s just trying to forget.

That’s the effect Iglesias seems to be going for. The album is drenched with infatuation- or hurt-inspired emotion. The kind that still gives the singer butterflies. Iglesias delivers one romantic ballad after another with whispery, yearning vocals à la Chris Isaak. Gentle, sultry, easy on the ears. His lovesick swoons don’t take no for an answer. Some of the words—of which Iglesias helped pen at least half—border on cheese.

Seamlessly produced, overflowing with catchy riffs and danceable beats, Enrique Iglesias has the same glossy appeal as his three previous Spanish albums, with the addition of a Whitney Houston duet and a decent cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Sad Eyes.” Almost every track kicks off with a Spanish guitar—probably the producers’ idea of what makes music Latin-tinged.

He opens with his “We Are the World”-style new single, “Rhythm Divine,” the kind of anthem that’s supposed to unite nations at the Olympics—”from the coast of Ipanema to the island of Capri.” Then he gives us “Be With You,” which sounds like a discarded draft of Cher’s “Believe.” Eventually he turns up the momentum with his hip-writhing crossover hit, “Bailamos,” in which he promises, in his breathiest voice, “Tonight we dance.”

Only Latin men can get away with that kind of talk without sounding corny, my lady friends concur. Iglesias’s sexuality oozes out of every number. As the son of Casanova crooner Julio—who my mom used to get jiggy with when our furniture was still covered in plastic—Enrique makes hearts flutter. When he’s onstage, the less aged Iglesias isn’t reminiscing about the girls he loved before, but he’s still serenading all the squealing females, fantasizing about that special one he wants to give his all to.

In concert he’s intimate and vulnerable—you almost feel like rescuing him from love’s ailments. He projects that just-rolled-out-of-bed look, performing in T-shirt and jeans and sporting five o’clock shadow: very different from his loafer-wearing daddy. He’s a brooding poet searching for his muse, a boy standing in front of a bunch of girls, asking to be loved. He gives you that warped 13-year-old-girl feeling that you and he are really going to get together. Really.

He’ll invite up a screeching braces-wearing fan; she’ll embrace his lean body, holding on for dear life, crying and singing along. He bends down, holds her chin, and looks into her eyes with utter tenderness. And then, just when her life couldn’t get any better, just when she’s about to faint, he looks at her with naive sensuality and places a kiss on her lips.

Marc Anthony doesn’t quite work it the way Iglesias does, but much of that may have to do with age. Anthony has wives throwing underwear at him during concerts. Born to Puerto Rican parents in New York 31 years ago, the salsero sounds mature and classy on his current self-titled English CD—so hopelessly romantic he’s almost unfashionable. He earnestly sings of lost love, nostalgia, what could’ve been. How could you not like a guy who feels so passionate about women, and doesn’t hesitate to say so?

The first time I saw Anthony perform, in ’92—he hadn’t sold out Madison Square Garden yet—he was giving a free outdoor show in a San Juan shopping area to promote his first salsa CD. Not much of a stage presence back then; he had long curly hair smoothed down with gel or oil or mousse, and a lanky figure to boot. But as soon as the former Menudo vocal coach opened his mouth and let out the silkiest of notes, he started looking fine.

He was the one who got me listening to a more contemporary version of the kind of salsa records my parents had played at the after-parties of my birthdays when I was a kid. On his three Spanish-language collections, this generation’s biggest salsa star fused Latin beats and modern disco, showcasing a voice that built then finally exploded into exultant crescendos.

His new CD is more keyboarded, drum-programmed, and power-ballad-heavy, remini- scent of music from ’80s movies like Top Gun and An Officer and a Gentleman. He cowrote eight of the songs, and his vocal cords carry all of them. “You Sang to Me” and “That’s Okay” show off his range the best. And “My Baby You,” which Anthony wrote for his daughter, Ariana, sounds so grand it could be part of a Broadway musical—hopefully one with a better fate than The Capeman, in which he played the lead. He belts his stories with such ardor, you never doubt something really important is at stake.

Still, halfway through the album, you feel like shaking Marc out of his melancholy funk and asking him to speed things up. Which he finally does, in his top-three pop smash, “I Need to Know,” an in-your-face number that took me a while to warm up to. By album’s end, the sonero is delivering a treat for longtime fans who miss the kind of tunes that got us listening to him in the first place: “Da la Vuelta,” a beautiful little letting-go number written by big shot Emilio Estefan Jr. and Colombian wordsmith Kike Santander. Too bad finicky Anglo fans couldn’t have been introduced to Anthony and Iglesias (and Ricky Martin) in Spanish. They would’ve figured out what 30 million Latinos in the United States have known all along: We rock.


Enrique Iglesias plays Z-100’s Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden December 16.

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Who’s There?

Bill Callahan’s voice is changing. It’s not just that he’s stopped singing through a coffee can, or whatever he used in the prepubescent lo-fi days of his musical project, Smog. It’s as if all those dives into his own bathysphere of miserablism have plumbed depths that resound in rounder, mellower baritones with each recording. On the latest, Knock Knock (Drag City), Callahan’s deep tannic twang now recalls, bizarrely enough, Kenny Rogers— though we may wait forever for that gentleman purveyor of chicken dinners and Internet casinos to go public with a sentiment as Smoggy as “I was a teenage spaceship.”

We also may wait forever for Callahan to toss promotional glow-in-the-dark Frisbees between songs as part of his live act— something Kenny used to do. A pity, since Smog shows could use a little showbiz oomph, and the grade-schoolers
who sing so sprightly on two of the new album’s tracks apparently couldn’t make it on tour. On Knock Knock, Callahan’s fractured fairy tales finally breathe, his booming drawl set free by robust, if uncredited, production and playing by several tenured fellows of the Drag City College of American Studies. But at the earlier of two SRO shows at Tonic last Sunday night, a solo Callahan slunk back into the high-school bedroom of yore. Fumbling with a muddy, just-out-of-tune guitar, he sang soulfully but with a ticlike recurring grimace as his sole facial expression. Nothing about his deadpan performance indicated that he knew he was onstage, which made everyone else so much more aware of the fact: hypnotized, the audience followed him as they would a daydreamer about to walk into the path of a car.

The meandering set mixed new material with closet classics like “All Your Woman
Things” (a Swiftian account of being left stranded
in a sea of brassieres that is probably best delivered without affect). Knock Knock‘s “Held” lacked its rousing “We Are the Champions” stomp-and-clap track live, yet it built up a VU-worthy drone. When Callahan sang, “I am moving away, moving away,” he backed away from the mike to demonstrate; some people tittered appreciatively at the pun. Me, I was relieved to see that his legs still worked.

It’s odd that Callahan’s live self is so fixed, since his recorded one is so mutable. But they’re not so different. Both frame the suicidal self-obsessive’s question— what would the world be like if I wasn’t here?— as the philosophical joke that it is. And sometimes the joke is even funny. — Sally Jacob


Losing My Religion

“Anyone out there want a religious experience?” shouted mega pop idol Enrique Iglesias as he sped up and down the Madison Square Garden runway. Iglesias was climaxing his two-hour Lat-teen-a lustfest by completing his transformation into the God of Romance with yet another midtempo shlock-bomb, “Experiencia Religiosa.” Moments earlier, we had witnessed the Michael Jackson dangling-from-a-flying-harness ritual, where Iglesias supplicated a lover to “Stop playing with my heart” as Garden security pulled a posse of beguiled Dominicanas, Mexicanas, and Colombianas from his heels.

Iglesias is the ultimate Latin pop fabrication, a finely crafted nugget of chart-topping radio amor ear candy, cashing in on his father Julio’s name recognition and trademark trill while cultivating an immaculate Matt Le Blanc­en-
Español look. Still he insists he’s a Cinderella
story in his introduction to “Si Tu Te Vas,” bemoaning the fact that his first smash single was rejected by several record companies. His defenders point out that unlike Mexican smarm king Luis Miguel, Iglesias has written about half of his recorded oeuvre, and his voice does manage to carry the biggest room in New York.

The relentless three-chord lite-rock format Iglesias employs allows him to strike quite an array of dramatic poses, some, with his bandmates, unsurprisingly homoerotic. More than one of his romantic ballads have the taxing quality of a Cat Stevens dirge, and not even the occasional soca break or rambling cover of “La Bamba” can lend him an air of authenticity. But the numbing revelation that unlike his father, he is not a star but an amazing simulation never seems to matter to his frothing faithful, a stunning manifestation of the ascendant Hispanic entertainment dollar. “Turn around, baby, and let me see that ass!” shouts a suburban Latina as she topples over a railing into the seat next to me. Launching into “Desnudo,” the emperor is about to shed his clothes. “I’m naked, confessing that I lied,” he intones wistfully, “I’m guilty of having loved/Do what you will with me.” — Ed Morales


Stealth Ace

Operating on a grand scale begets a certain glory in jazz, and those who arrange for large ensembles are often pegged as the music’s big thinkers. But what about leaders who sagely calibrate smaller groups? The quartet Sherman Irby led at the Vanguard last week had a clever equilibrium, and on Thursday night the young alto player used each of his associates with a marked judiciousness. Sculpting the shifts— a brief banishment of pianist John Hicks, or a promenade solely in the company of drummer Willie Jones III— Irby portrayed himself as an ad lib architect. His impromptu moves were elaborate, even if his orchestra consisted only of four people.

[

Irby plays his horn in a similar way. One of the few young leaders to make that long walk from Smalls to the Vanguard, he remains somewhat shrouded audience-wise. But his singularity is beginning to be noticed. Big Mama’s Biscuits (Blue Note) made it to several best-of lists last year, and commentary stressed the cunning simplicity of Irby’s lines. Like Arthur Blythe before him, the Tuscaloosa homeboy is tickled by Ali’s butterfly/bee dichotomy; with the kind of deliberate grace that’s usually part of an older player’s lingo, he proves himself different from his peers by often opting for the mariposas. Last week’s otherwise urgent “Call To Order” contained a floating passage where his alto lithely drifted in tempo. It was startling, radical, and gorgeous.

The current party line says James Carter’s bluster brings avant-garde elements to the mainstream. Trading sensationalism for stealth, Irby does too. Thursday’s most tantalizing moments came on a “Take the ‘A’ Train” duet with bassist Gerald Cannon. Reminiscent of Air’s spin on “Buddy Bolden’s Blues,” it demonstrated that abstract thinking is key to Irby’s sound. Insinuation is a powerful tool, and the saxophonist’s authority stems from the way he sweetens his drama with a gripping nonchalance. Moving slow might just put him in the fast lane. — Jim Macnie


All Bridge, No Chorus

Crank up John Hudak’s Brooklyn Bridge (Shirocoal), and the warbling hiss and buzz you’ll hear won’t be what your ears pick up as you stand on the bridge, but the vibrations you feel in your bones as you touch it: the wind playing the cables like a colossal lyre, the constant procession of cars and their grinding hum, the hollow resonance of the anchorage, the entire structure pulsating and readjusting itself, a wave that grows more wrinkled the more closely it’s observed. The disc’s four long pieces are the sound of the bridge itself, processed into blurry, hovering rumbles and overtone-rich whistles. They aren’t exactly drones— they have a lot of variation, moment-to-moment— but they’re essentially static, like time-lapse photography.

Hudak’s been living near the bridge for seven years, and recorded its support wires, piping, and boardwalk with contact microphones last January. “They pick up much more of the vibrational quality,” he says. “It gives you more of an intense sound, like using a stethoscope to listen to somebody talking.” The pieces that ended up on the disc are constructed from short samples, stretched and magnified to play up the particular timbres and textures he likes. You have to step back from their meditative duration (the shortest is an 11-minute recording of a low, metallic tone, like a dying gong) to notice their patterns: a periodic bass hum from a deep creak in the beams, moments of emphasis that must be from passing cars. Hudak’s also released recordings of weather, insects, trees, and a pond, all of which bear his stamp as much as their sources’. Brooklyn Bridge is essentially a nature recording, too— you don’t hear the noises of people and their machines directly, but the presence of a permanent and complicated fixture. — Douglas Wolk


The Bold Soprano

From Teresa Stratas to Kiri Te Kanawa to Bryn Terfel, the road to Broadway is littered with classically trained singers who deluded themselves into thinking that if they could do Verdi, they could do Cole Porter as well. If only it were that simple. . . . But Dawn Upshaw is a rare exception, negotiating both classical and American music theater repertoires with consummate grace and empathy.

The ever-enterprising singer (she may have been the first soprano to roll on the floor during her Carnegie Hall recital debut) ventured to Joe’s Pub to perform songs from her latest CD, Dawn Upshaw Sings Vernon Duke. Vernon who? Upshaw acknowledged she hadn’t even heard of the composer until producer Tommy Krasker brought him up. Duke was closer in sensibility to European art song composers than to his jazz-influenced American contemporaries— not only is tapping your foot to his tunes an exercise in futility, you can’t really hum along either. But he
wasn’t much of a challenge to Upshaw: as celestial in voice as she is earthbound in demeanor (no temper tantrums or marrying Greek tycoons for her), the singer made everything sound utterly easy. Opting for understanding over grandstanding, Upshaw demonstrated a flawless technique that never overpowered delicate songs like “Round About.” Her stage presence was economical as well— a cocked eyebrow and a sly sideways glance were enough to act out Ogden Nash’s goofy “The Sea-Gull and the Ea-Gull,” for instance. Guest pianist Fred Hersch gamely piped up on “I Like the Likes of You.” Whether the soprano was smiling at Hersch’s fumbling suitor or his fumbling singing wasn’t clear; after all she herself looked endearingly nervous at times, as if she’d just realized that performing to a couple of hundred people sprawled out on velvet cushions is as hard as facing anonymous thousands at the Met.

[

Though Upshaw didn’t quite muster enough wistful joy on “Taking a Chance on Love” (from Cabin in the Sky), she concluded her set on a sublime note as she strayed from Duke’s arid songbook. For three minutes, Marc Blitzstein’s “I Wish It So” was the most poignant song ever written. Time suddenly stood still, and it felt as if even the subway, which until then had been audibly rumbling under Joe’s Pub, was holding its breath. — Elisabeth Vincentelli