Walk through the Edwardian opulence of the Hippodrome in Leicester Square – past the baccarat, the poker and the roulette tables, for the Hippodrome is now a Casino – go up a flight of stairs to the first floor, and there you will find Cabaret Heaven. At least it was tonight. The Matcham Room on the first floor was the venue for Liz Robertson to premiere her latest collection of songs “from her trunk”, and the intimate ambience of a cabaret was ideal for putting them across.
Miss Robertson is an English rose, but steeped in the tradition of the Great American Song Book, and indeed is the widow of Alan Jay Lerner. She goes back a long way. Reminiscences about the Billy Cotton Band Show on the Light Programme, and hearing the Beatles and the Stones for the first time on Radio Caroline, appealed to this reviewer, who also goes back a long way. Having always been a soprano, said Miss Robertson, she was now ready to tackle the lower notes favoured by Ella, Nina and Cleo, which had previously eluded her. Things droop with time, and so had her voice.
But Liz Robertson has certainly not drooped, and her voice is in fine fettle. She imparted clarity and freshness to some timeless standards, but also produced wonderful versions of songs which belong to a different genre, such as the Beatles’ Here, There and Everywhere and the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows. Much credit must go to her musical director, Chris Walker, who also accompanied her on the piano. Bass and drums made up the trio that is the jazz singer’s staple backing, and here they carried out their task to perfection.
A young companion at my table confessed that the allusions to the Light Programme and Radio Caroline had gone over her head, but commented on how much better the lyrics were in the songs chosen by Miss Robertson than the popular fare that she herself was used to. The words mean something; they are poignant and witty. Well, we know that, but it is good to hear it acknowledged by a youngster. Let’s hope that Liz Robertson unpacks the songs from her trunk again soon, for this premiere was just a one-nighter.