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REVIEW: Sumptuous Vocals, Distracting Tracks in Linda Eder Concert (Ordway)

A promotional photo of singer Linda Eder.

The Chicago Tribune‘s Howard Reich once summarized a common frustration of Linda Eder fans: she tours very selectively, and is thus hard to catch in a live performance. One of those rare performances took place Tuesday night at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts’ concert hall.

The program was advertised as Eder’s Christmas Stays the Same concert. The title might be remotely true for your family if it included a Broadway star who liked to pop in for a chat and entertain the clan with 110 minutes of singing and jokes. Your family still probably wouldn’t have a backing band of five players (complete with jazz combo), though, even if it was unusually gifted in the music department.

Over the years, Eder has demonstrated an impressive command of different musical styles, including jazz, Broadway, pop, and country. For this performance, Broadway and jazz were the most in evidence, with a serious rhythm section and some notable touches like an upright bass-Eder duet. In-between songs, Eder told anecdotes, jokes, and poked fun at some issues with pre-recorded backing tracks (the only real weakness in the concert – these tracks were usually more distracting than helpful, and quite unnecessary). The sound, like her 2015 album Retro, was varied and vintage in a good way. The night’s program mixed interesting arrangements of Christmas classics with a handful of the Broadway songs that Eder made famous (e.g., “Someone Like You”) and that she’s claimed with bold covers and colors (e.g., “The Impossible Dream”).

Whatever she’s been up to when not touring, Eder’s voice is still in fine form. If you’d only recently discovered this one-time Brainerd, MN resident through the Jekyll & Hyde Broadway cast album, itself now twenty years old, you’d hardly notice that two decades have gone by: her voice is just as rich, expressive (and, at times, sultry) as ever, with just a slight added huskiness.

Tuesday’s concert ran almost two hours with no intermission, a marathon that clearly tested the endurance of some bladders when there were still about five songs left to go. (The audience members came back.) Even at the concert’s end, it was clear that many wanted more Linda, still – within minutes of the concert’s end, a line of more than a hundred people waiting for CD-signings and photos had formed, stretching clear back past the ticketing area.

Basil Considine