VERONICA KLAUS: Live at the Lodge13 Classic tracks of Jazz, Blues and Cabaret from a San Francisco Icon!
When Veronica Klaus opens her mouth people listen. With a voice that is both powerful and evocative, she can wrap herself around a song like no one else. Indeed she is an original; a statuesque, shapely, redhead who's onstage presence is as riveting as her singing. All that is perfectly captured in her newest release, "Veronica Klaus,
Live at the Lodge." Recorded in the fall of 2004 as a benefit for the Rainbow World Fund, the new CD is a must-have, and features the full sound of a 10 piece band replete with horns and back-up vocals. "Fever," a pitch perfect dive into the evening, sets the mood with a sultry rendition of the Peggy Lee classic. In this first track Veronica reveals strong Jazz/R& B chops and, with some original lyrics you won't hear anywhere else, hints at a sly sense of humor under her cool appearance. A fat bass funk kicks into "Come to Mama" and Veronica invites the audience, with a purr and a wink, to "Call my number; 255-6969" knowing all along she has theirs. The audience's enthusiastic response to Bill Hampton's guitar intro on "Someone Else is Steppin' In" shows the timeless appeal of "the retribution blues." With serendipitously double entendre lyrics like "Cry baby, but you won't get through to me, I'm a brand new woman, as anyone can see" to coyly play with, Veronica hits her stride.
Saucy numbers aside, Veronica's vocal finesse shines through in the quieter ballads. With Klaus' cool caress, the lyrics "Tell me what you're feeling" lay bare the vulnerability of Phoebe Snow's, "Something Real," a piece which deftly highlights the talents of Veronica's long-time collaborator, jazz pianist, Tammy L. Hall, a superb jazz pianist based in San Francisco with solid credentials both as a solo artist and as a featured musician with such jazz legends as Etta Jones, Eddie "Fathead" Newman, Denise Perrier, Kim Nalley, Lady Memphis, Frankie Kelley, and Debbie de Coudreaux. (www.tammyhall.com)
Revising the lyrics of the James Carr classic "Dark End of the Street," Veronica cleverly transforms this admission of guilt, to a bittersweet statement of fact, so that an anguished ballad becomes an anthem of subtle nuance. With a rousing Latin riff and a driving beat, Hall's arrangement of "Cry Me a River" breathes new life into the sleepy Julie London standard. Veronica takes a solo turn at the keyboards for an intimate and emotionally charged "You Turn Me On." Toying with the crowd's expectations, the club standard "I will Survive" begins as a soulful lament then explodes with "Go! Walk out that door" into an assertive jazz funk. Carole King's "Way over Yonder," a venerable choice, sounds at once world-weary and hopeful in Veronica's hands; with background vocals adding uplifting harmonies. Maybe heaven-or whatever is way over yonder--can wait, but in Tom Waits' "I Can't Wait to Get off Work," Veronica can't. She brings a careless elegance to this common sentiment. Also featured is "Angel from Montgomery" a roots-y duet, which finds Veronica collaborating with friend and award winning singer/songwriter Mark Weigle, whom Veronica has worked with in the past, most notably on "Jo and Libby", a haunting duet on Weigle's CD, "Different and the Same". (www.markweigle.com)
Before going home, the band digs into an autobiographical tune that has become a trademark, chronicling her metamorphosis from a husky Midwestern boy to a glamorous siren; a transition Klaus and co-writer/director Jeffrey Hartgraves brilliantly staged in her one-woman show "Family Jewels-The Making of Veronica Klaus." "Black Diamond Days" is a fitting end to a remarkably varied yet cohesive group of tracks. An additional bonus track, Bill Withers' "Use Me," recorded ten years ago, proves that this talented vocalist has paid her dues. Her numerous awards including SF Weekly Wammie Award: Best Blues/R&B, SF Bay Guardian: Best Chanteuse, The Cable Car Award: Entertainer of the Year are fully realized in this timeless collection.
"Best Chanteuse" SF Guardian 2004
SF Weekly Whammy Award Winner "Blues/R&B"
"...an inimitable star!" SF Weekly
"...hugely compelling...ever so seductive." SF Bay Area Reporter
THE REVIEWS ARE COMING IN!
FROM CHERYL EDDY, SFBAY GUARDIAN, MAY 11, 2005
Live at the Lodge
(Black Diamond Music)
"You just can't force this jewel of a girl into a square setting." Veronica Klaus belts on "Black Diamond Days," an original tune charting her journey" from that old coal town to a Golden Coast." The song is an emotional high point on Live at the Lodge, recorded in 2004 at an SF benefit concert. Though live, preferably in an intimate cabaret setting, is the ideal way to catch Klaus's act, Live at the Lodge still captures her strengths. Backed by a talented ensemble that includes pianist Tammy L. Hall, she answers the crowd's appreciative hoots with her sassy spin on "Fever." Her versatile vocals spice up familiar torch songs: "Dark End of the Street"), Klaus is unafraid of straying from the standards; her takes on Bill Withers ("Use Me") Carole King ("Way Over Yonder"), and especially Tom Waits ("I Can't Wait to Get Off Work") are inspired, as is her stripped-down duet with Mark Weigle on John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery."
From Sam Labelle, Magazine 99 (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver), May 2005
LIVE AT THE LODGE
Featuring Tammy L. Hall
(Black Diamond Music)
Veronica Klaus has been a force to be reckoned with since she first moved to San Francisco on a stormy New Year's Eve in 1986. Since then Klaus has invented and re-invented herself many times over-from fronting her Heart and Sour Review singing big band soul to intimate cabaret with a trio-and recorded a GLAMA Award-nominated album of original material, All I Want. She has played countless SF venues, including the prestigious home of jazz, blues, and notable chanteuses, The Plush Room. Many of us have fond memories of "Puttin' on the Titz," her infamous fund-raiser for, well, you know...her tits!
Her latest album, Live At The Lodge, is a rich tapestry of songs that give us a glimpse of a complex entertainer and her journey. Klaus always takes center stage, but also is more than willing to play the role of "the girl singer in the band," allowing her tight 12-piece orchestra to bust out jazzy jams on standards like the opener, "Fever." Klaus adds some clever additional verses to "Fever" that strike a chord with the LGBT community, including references to Liberace with his chauffeur and Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. "Come To Mama," covered by the likes of Ann Peebles, Etta James and Janis Joplin, gets new life from Klaus. She serves up several torchy ballads: Nona Hendryx's sexy "You Turn Me On," Phoebe Snow's "Something Real," "I Can't Wait To Get Off Work" by the Bay Area's Tom Waits, and the stand-out "Dark End of the Street," a James Carr chestnut.
The fabulous Mark Weigle duets on "Angel From Montgomery," a touching Prine classic that is a perfect lead-in to Carol King's "Way Over Yonder." A true gem is Klaus' befitting cover of Gloria Gaynor's quintessential "I Will Survive." As it does on the whole set, Tammy Hall's polished piano work adds an unmistakable professional shine. The beautifully penned Klaus original "Black Diamond Days," from her All I Want album, closes and holds its own nicely with all the standards.
Live At The Lodge is a live concert recording that was produced as a benefit for the Rainbow World Fund, an LGBT non-profit agency, and the CARE Haitian Relief Campaign. CDs are available through www.veronicaklaus.com
Musicians on LIVE AT THE LODGE:
Veronica Klaus-Lead Vocals, Keyboard (7)
Tammy L. Hall-Keyboard
Daniel Fabricant-Acoustic & Electric Bass
Kevin Harris-Synth Bass (2)
Tom Griesser-Tenor Saxophone
Kirk Hamilton-Alto Saxophone, Flute
Eddie Hall-Background Vocals
Paul Walker-Background Vocals
Mark Weigle-Guest Vocals, Acoustic Guitar (9)
Musical Direction: Tammy L. Hall
Produced by Mixed by Kevin Harris @ Harwood Productions, Hercules CA. Mastered by Rainer Gembalczyk at Sienna Digital, San Mateo, CA.
This concert was originally produced on November 18th 2004 by Lucien Stern Presents as a benefit for the Rainbow World Fund and CARE Haitian Relief Campaign. Rainbow World Fund is a LGBT non-profit agency devoted to humanitarian work. Visit their website to get more information or to make a donation. www.rainbowfund.org
Studio Photography by Kent Taylor www.kenttaylorphotography.com.
Live stills by Russell Holt.
CD graphics by www.daddamproductions.com
Special Thanks go to: Jeff Cotter at Rainbow World Fund for his tireless and invaluable work. David Nemoyten at Lucien Stern Presents for making such a gorgeous night possible-and still being a friend! Everyone at The Regency Center for their generosity and assistance. Mark Weigle, friend, co-conspirator and a fab musician! Armistead Maupin, JK Sound, Patrick Ennis, Donovan Schinkel, Doug Proulx, Russell Holt for the videography, Cockatelia for use of the spotlight, Scott Cardel Catering, The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence, all the sponsors and the fabulous audience in attendance!
This CD project sponsored in part by THE NEW BLACK (www.thenewblack.org)
SF GUARDIAN "Best Chanteuse" AWARD
There's only one word to describe cabaret crooner Veronica Klaus: fabulous. Whether she's letting loose with a bawdy uptempo number or reducing the rapt Plush Room crowd to silence with a sultry lament, Klaus displays the kind of star quality that's earned her a rabidly loyal fan base. And she's not one to stick to tired old standards, as proven by songs like the self-penned "Black Diamond Days" (an examination of her Midwestern upbringing). Still, you haven't lived till you've heard the always impeccably attired Klaus rip into "Pirate Jenny": in her expert hands the haunting ballad takes on a life of its own. Good news for the faithful: Klaus is developing Family Jewels: The Making of Veronica Klaus, an autobiographical stage production set to premiere next year. All this, and she plays a mean tuba too.
Veronica recently debuted her new one-woman show "FAMILY JEWELS-The Making of Veronica Klaus" co-written and directed by Jeffery Hargraves, and produced by Steinbeck Presents at the EXIT Theater in San Francisco to rave reviews! Here's a sample:
Family Jewels - The Making of Veronica Klaus
by Veronica Klaus
An Improbable Legend
The best gender-bending live shows since David Bowie donned mascara
article by Nirmala Nataraj, SF Weekly February 23, 2005
Veronica Klaus is nothing short of a Bay Area performance icon. For decades the transgendered chanteuse has injected San Francisco with much-needed high style and some of the most delicious gender-bending live shows you've seen since David Bowie donned mascara in the '70s.
Klaus, a bombastic redhead with a natural affinity for spectacle, is known for such splashy stage moves as materializing from a giant Valentine heart at the Great American Music Hall, opting for hot dog costumes rather than evening gowns, and tickling audiences pink with all the things she can do with a tuba. To top that off, she's mysteriously managed to retain her youthful grace, even after nearly 20 years of performing. Fans and novices alike should expect some of the same in the songwriter/recording artist's new biographical play, Family Jewels, which chronicles Klaus' transformation from shy Midwestern lad to voluptuous S.F. diva. ("You just can't force this jewel of a girl into a square setting," Klaus has insisted.) The idea for a performance centered on Klaus' personal journey in life and love stemmed from her followers' frequently asked questions about the person behind the legend. Sometimes frivolous, sometimes heartbreaking, Family Jewels is a comprehensive memoir teeming with family complications, romantic debacles, pre- and post-op musings, and snatches of song (including originals like "Black Diamond Days" and covers like the Carpenters' vintage hit "Superstar") -- which is a good thing, too, since it's Klaus' voice that makes her such an inimitable star. She's equipped with a whiskey-soaked contralto that delivers images of humid bayou nights, barroom brawls, and sex with rugged strangers.
In fact, it's Klaus' eclectic mixture of R&B, blues, jazz, show tunes, and rock 'n' roll that transforms Family Jewels into more than a campy cabaret revue. The performer's influences range from Dinah Washington to Tim Curry, and she says she "wouldn't be caught dead doing a Gershwin show." Despite the association between camp and cabaret, Klaus delivers a production that takes both her male-to-female transformation and her talent seriously and refuses to wink and snigger at the audience. She has expressed reluctance in the past about doing work revolving around gender because it has so often been reduced to a buzzword that detracts from her music. But in Jewels, her refusal to see herself as a clichÃ© or a joke elevates her material, transforming it from what could have been a one-note parody into a nuanced biography that draws in even viewers who think at the outset that they share little with Klaus. It's a fascinating approach to the curiosity all star-struck spectators have about what goes on inside and outside the entertainer's dressing room -- no matter what set of plumbing said performer hides under her fabulous costumes. -- Nirmala Nataraj
Show girl in the 'Making'
Local singer mines personal life for new one-woman show.
By Bill Picture
Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2005 10:48 AM PST
Take a look in singer Veronica Klaus' closet and all you'll find are gowns -- that's it, nary a single skeleton in sight. Her life, insists the award-winning Bay Area chanteuse, is an open book. But Klaus says she's always preferred to let her music do the talking for her because she feared her sensational past might overshadow her unique talent -- until now, that is. Klaus' new autobiographical one-woman show, "Family Jewels: The Making of Veronica Klaus," premieres Thursday at San Francisco's Exit Theatre.
"I can see the headline 'Transexual Singer,'" she jokes. "I suppose I may have done myself and my career a disservice by not pushing the whole gender thing. But that's just not who I am. I wanted my music to be the focus."
"Family Jewels" was a long time in the making. Klaus has been working colorful anecdotes culled from her past into her cabaret act for years, and weaving them into columns she's written for San Francisco's various gay rags.
This is the first time, however, that Klaus is putting her heartbreak out on the table and talking publicly about what it was like to grow up in a small Midwestern town sensing a disconnect between her body, that of a boy, and her heart and soul, which were all woman.
"It's some pretty powerful stuff," she says. "I mean, a lot of these experiences are still hard even for me. But it feels good to share them and, more importantly, to have this opportunity to tell my story my way."
In doing so, Klaus hopes to help audiences better understand the challenges facing "questioning" adolescents, particularly those with gender-identity issues. But beyond the, as she puts it, "sensational bits," Klaus believes her story is one that everyone -- gay, straight, transgender or other -- will be able to relate to on some level.
"Let's face it, my story certainly isn't everybody's story," she jokes. "But even in a story as unusual as mine, there are a lot of things and experiences that are quite usual or universal. We're all just trying to figure out where we fit in, in this world. We're all trying to find what will make our life better and what we need to be happy."
Check out the artist's website:
2. Come to Mama
3. Something Real
4. Dark End of the Street
5. Someone Else Is Steppin In
6. Cry Me a River
7. You Turn Me On
8. I Will Survive
9. Angel From Montgomery (w/ Mark Weigle)
10. Way Over Yonder
11. I Can't Wait To Get Off Work
12. Black Diamond Days
13. Use Me