A Glimpse of the Eternal: Steve and Eydie.Posted: November 5, 2007
When the Steve and Eydie show at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora (about 40 miles west of Chicago) was announced, I resisted. I said, “We saw them in 1997–how different is their act going to be now?” And, “Ten more years have passed. Time will surely have taken its toll on them.” And, last but not least, “It’s Aurora. Who wants to go to Aurora?!?”
But about two weeks ago, another voice piped in. It said, “You idiot. If you don’t see them now, you may be forfeiting your chance to see them ever again. None of us is guaranteed to be on the planet tomorrow, let alone a year or two from now. You might be gone, either of them might be gone…The only thing we know is you’re here, and they’re here.”
So I carpied the diem, and scored a good seat. I’m glad.
The show opened with a montage of TV clips of S&E separately and together from the 50s through the 70s. You came away awed at the contribution they made to the mainstream culture all those years, making popular music popular at impossible-t0-take-for granted-now levels of artistry. Not to get cosmic about it, but the montage made me deeply grateful that so much of my time on the planet has coincided with so much of theirs.
At the close of the montage, Steve and Eydie came out on stage and sang a snappy piece of special material called, I’m thinking based on the lyric, “We’re Still Here” (not based on Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here”). The very first line of the song was funny. Making reference to the video just seen on the big screen, they sang, “We don’t look like that anymore.”
It was a shrewd lyric line to open with, because it disarmed an issue that had to be dealt with. Eydie doesn’t look like that anymore. She’s a bit rounder. She still looks great, and, my God, at 76, and with her recent knee surgery, if she’s rounder, she’s entitled. But she’s looks great in a different way than you might be expecting. Steve, thanks to the miracles of modern science and/or clean living and/or genetic luck, looks pretty much the same as always!
“We’re Still Here” turned out, as it went on, to stimulate cosmic thoughts similar to those I had while watching the montage. The song wasn’t just about that they were still here. It was about that all of us, we the audience as well as they, were still here. It was a celebration of survival. Not in the Sondheimian sense of having made it through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover; rather in the sense that every day you wake up not dead yet is a gift. By virtue of the fact that they were on the stage, and we were in the audience, not one person there was dead yet! And that is something to thank the universe for. It was the unspoken theme of the entire show. Not to exaggerate, but the show was a religious experience.
And the show was a celebration of the survival of pop music excellence. It is just hanging on by a thread in this world, breathing its last breaths, but it is still here, for just a little while longer anyway. It is not dead yet. And this spirit, as beautiful as it is tragic (for we know what the future has in store), informed the entire show. When Steve and Eydie duet on Rodgers and Hart’s “Where or When” (a staple for them for many years), the song is no longer about a couple who meets for the first time with a sense of deja vu–it’s about all of us who love the Great American Songbook, performers and audience, meeting over and over again to share it with each other. And it takes on new qualities of the eternal, as we allow ourselves to imagine doing so in the next world when this one is through for us.
As an experiment, I closed my eyes at times and tried to imagine a young Steve and Eydie on stage, to determine if the sounds I was hearing would make sense with that picture. My rough guess is that the answer was yes about 75% of the time–which I think is amazing, and (getting all spiritual again) inspiring. The other 25% of the time there were signs of wear. But their musical instincts are sharp and they were able to “work around it” much of the time. When Eydie sang some of her hits, she employed some sensible melodic inversions in order to stay out of difficult territory. Yet at times she went for the high notes–and nailed them.
In their patter, Steve and Eydie didn’t miss too many chances to plug their website–steveandeydie.com–and neither will I. If you click on those words in this post, you’ll be taken right there. You’ll find many of their albums, separately and together, remastered for CD. I particularly commend to you the twofer composed of Two on the Aisle and Together on Broadway. The music of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme exists at some kind of nexus of jazz and Broadway anyway, so the program of these two albums, tunes from Broadway shows of the midfifties through midsixties arranged by Don Costa and Pat Williams, is right in their wheelhouse, and they knock it out of the park.
Why post about Steve and Eydie now? Who doesn’t know about them, or, at least, of them? Well, while it’s important and exciting to talk about Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition (as Down Beat used to put it), it’s also a good thing now and then, for the sake of perspective, to reaffirm the Talent That Once Received So Much Recognition That It Now Receives None At All. To reaffirm, for the record, the phenomenality of phenomenons.
After the show, in the garage where I had parked a couple blocks from the theater, I shared an elevator with one of the musicians, a guy in his early forties. I complimented him on the show, and he said thanks. He said, “So what did you think of them?” I said, looking him straight in the eyes, “I think it’s a miracle.” He looked back at me and paused, struggling for something to say, and then replied, nodding, with awe in his voice. “I think that’s right. I think that’s the only word for it.”