Pink Martini


There’s nothing better than feeling a bit flash. Tonight I’m at The Bridgewater Hall with the missus for a bit of ‘culture.’ As we soon find out we’re only 10 rows from the front of stage, I’m feeling flash – like a slightly under-dressed (though still smart) Patrick Bateman.

Earlier that night as we arrived at The Bridgewater Hall, my girlfriend was still out of the loop as to why we were visiting this magnificent concert hall. Sauntering over to the Box Office, I nonchalantly flashed her a peak at the tickets and her face lit up. I was feeling flash – like a more appropriately dressed Peter Stringfellow.

We’re here to see Pink Martini, a group I’ve been into since the mid 2000’s – around the time of the release of their third record Hey Eugene! Self-described as a “Little Orchestra”, Pink Martini transcend multiple genres of music and have been wowing audiences for the past 20 years. In the days leading up to the gig, I couldn’t think of a better venue to house them.

Opening up the show is The Von Trapps, actual descendants of the Trapp Family Singers – the famous family immortalised in the 1965 film The Sound of Music. The band consists of the four great grandchildren of the famous family (Sofi, Melanie, Amanda and August.) They’ve recently collaborated with Pink Martini on new record Dream A Little Dream and it’s the title track from this record that they start on. The intro to the song is possibly my favourite piece of music, with the pianist starting on a section from the beautiful ‘Clair De Lune’ by French composer Claude Debussy. A number of covers are played alongside their own material, and it’s easy to see why The Von Trapps have been taken under the wing of Pink Martini.

After a brief break in proceedings (and an ill-advised trip to go out in the rain to get some cash), it’s back in the hall for Pink Martini. Arriving on stage to rapturous applause, we’re soon told the story of the band – How it all began, twenty years ago in Portland, Oregon. Pianist Thomas Lauderdale and vocalist China Forbes have great chemistry on stage and it’s clear their friendship is one that’s kept strong throughout their long haul in the band. They begin on one of their well-known hits, ‘Sympathique,’ starting on a great story of how it came about, it’s popularity and the subsequent legal action that was taken against them after they discovered the poem it took from was not in the public domain. “After they sued us, they asked for our autographs!” they joke.

Each tune includes a brief introduction, with one of my favourites coming from vocalist and percussionist Timothy Nishimoto, who delights the Bridgewater Hall with a tale from his childhood and an elderly relative who didn’t have much of a grasp on the English language. This led neatly into the fantastic ‘Zundoko-Bushi’ taken from their latest record Get Happy, a song that sounds like it could be the theme tune to a Japanese detective show. Not to be outdone by the charismatic (and rather sexy) China, Timothy sings a few great songs throughout the night with some hilariously soulful dancing.

The great thing about Pink Martini is where they can take you as a band. Throughout the show, you’re transported across various decades on a global tour through their vast repertoire of songs. Much like how your imagination can plant you right in the action when reading a book, these songs can take you to a different time and place. A great example of this is in ‘U Plavu Zoru’, which features an absolutely thrilling introduction between violinist Nicholas Crosa and Thomas Lauderdale on piano.

Other highlights from the night include an up tempo version of Fernando’ (which held high appeal for me, as a semi-closeted Abba fan) in which the audience are invited on stage to dance around the band, as well as a beautiful rendition of ‘Over the Valley,’ taken from their fourth record Splendor in the Grass which China dedicates to her son.

Having taken to the stage one or two times throughout the night, The Von Trapps join the band again for the encore, as they bounce along into a rendition of the famous Sound of Music favourite ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ before finishing on a sterling, crowd pleasing performance of ‘Brazil’ that has everyone on their feet. A welcome encore and a fully deserved standing ovation follow.

It’s really no surprise to see why Pink Martini have been travelling the globe doing what they do for the past twenty years. Vinyl was purchased afterward and even signed by the band (!) for the missus to top off a wonderful evening. Now to book those flights to Portland, Oregon…

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Andy Hughes

Hi, I'm Andy.I'm the man behind Birthday Cake for Breakfast, a site featuring music news, reviews and interviews.Big believer in Birthday Cake, Pizza, math rock and beer (preferably all in one sitting.) I spend my mornings daydreaming about gigs and my evenings going to gigs. Lunch times are spent walking about town listening to Tom Waits.'Id rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy'