REVIEW: Cleveland hi-jinks with Pink Martini


A few songs into Pink Martini’s set, pianist Thomas Lauderdale told the audience he needed more fun, more hi-jinks. Usually the band’s performances were more rambunctious, he said.

However, on July 16, the well-clad audience sat politely (at first) to listen to the music inside the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gartner Auditorium.

It took a while, but soon the audience took Lauderdale’s suggestion to heart. When singer/percussionist Timothy Nishimoto broke into “But Now You’re Back,” the first couple began swing dancing in the aisle between seats. A stream of audience members rushed onto the stage to sing in a mini choir, later dancing along with Nishimoto during “Song of the Flying Squirrel.”

Pink Martini 2By the end of the show, a conga line snaked around the entire auditorium, led by an audience member who climactically leapt up to dance with singer China Forbes.

Before all that, the band got started with a set list that showcased every member, from the scraper-player to the flutist to the singer. Songs extended through continuous improvisation, which was passed between different instruments. Songs that started slow and sweet grew into boisterous big-band bursts.

The spotlight continuously featured new people, but every time Forbes took the mic, her vocals were shiver-inducing and had members of the crowd gaping. Practically every time Forbes sang a perfectly-pitched melody, her personal cheerleader (Lauderdale himself) pointed towards her like a proud father and said, “China Forbes!”

The band performed “Sympathique” early on in the concert, the song which made Pink Martini famous (and infamous, in some ways, after a lawsuit for using a copyrighted poem). “We got sued in French,” said Forbes, “which is very sexy.”

On top of their repertoire of French songs, Pink Martini dabbled into Japanese, Armenian, Turkish, Croatian, Spanish and English tunes, sometimes swapping singers for their skills in different languages. Forbes especially seemed fluent in every song she dipped into, and the band felt fluent in the styles they presented as well.

What really stood out was that even when band members weren’t playing during certain songs, they all sang along, smiling at each other and tapping their feet to the rhythm. Every member of Pink Martini had a blast during the performance, just as much as the audience in front of them.