Heidi Melton at the Rex

 After getting off work, the Femme Fatale and I scampered over to Morton's to have sliders, blue cheese fries and Manhattans before traipsing over to the Rex for Heidi Melton's Salon show, which started at 6:00pm.

Yes, that's right- 6:00pm! How ridiculous, and all because some people complained the original 6:30 start time wouldn't give them enough time to make it over the the War Memorial for the Adler finale which began at eight. Morons. It's downtown! You could walk it in less than 30 minutes, and it's a 10 minute cab ride at best. Wtf! You do not need an hour to get from Sutter and Taylor to Van Ness and Grove. Anyway, we were three or four minutes late to the first and only classical music concert that ever started promptly on time so we had to wait until the first song was over to be let in. That's fine, except the person watching the door wasn't paying close enough attention so we missed the next song as well. Eventually we were let in and took seats in the back, where a couple of old, nasty women gave us the stink eye. Sorry dowagers- we came from work and wanted to get a bite to eat first. Why is that a problem?-  and why, lady in the grey suit and dour demeanor in the back row, did you find it necessary to kick my chair every other minute?

Oh yes, the music. The music. So Melton was singing songs by Sibelius and I couldn't tell if it was the strange acoustics of the room, with its very low ceiling and paper-thin walls, or the Finnish, or where we were seated, but it just sounded off. Like she was holding back, or wasn't fully comfortable with the language or the songs. She probably said some introductory comments about all of this, and put it in context, but we missed it, so we were listening blind so to speak. And neither of us, who have both heard her recently in other venues, were impressed by the Sibelius songs. Not that it was bad at all, mind you, but really, one expects, unreasonably perhaps at this still-early stage in her career, for Heidi Melton to be great. Period. That's kind of just the way it is. Everyone else in the room seemed to love it, but we were ambivalent.

During the brief moment after the Sibelius songs concluded, we slid over to the side of the room, away from the seat-kicker and hopefully for better acoustics. Neither of us wanted to sit too close, because Melton's voice is so preternaturally strong I was reluctant to sit close to it in such a small room.

Next up were songs by Korngold, Leider des Abshieds, Opus 14, and these were much better. Having now settled in, translations in hand, it was wonderful to hear Melton sing in German- each word was clear and meaningfully sung. "Mond, so gehst du weider auf (Moon, Where Are You Going)" was particularly poignant and beautiful, especially the final rhyming couplet. The entire song cycle was really quite marvelous. This was Melton at her best. During one pause between songs someone in the kitchen said something so out of context it made me laugh, though I was seated on the opposite side of the room. Something like "Give me a lemon."

After the Korngold, Melton and her accompanist John Churchwell left the room for a few minutes for a brief break allowing her to change into a sparkly dress- because next up were cabaret songs. She began with a Weill song sung in French, which sounded way too German for me, except for the spoken asides, which has a delightful sass to them. The highlight of the cabaret set for me was "Always," which Melton mentioned had personal relevance to her, as she sung it at her grandparents anniversary. In between the Weill and Berlin were songs that didn't fully succeed to my ears, but the strongly enthusiastic response from the audience renders my opinion to a very small minority. Melton's voice, so exquisitely operatic in every sense of the word, just doesn't navigate the subtleties of jazz singing- at least not in a venue this small. She needs room to belt it out and then reign it in gently- and at the Rex a singer really can't do that. The last time I saw her perform she ended with similar material but in a larger space (The Old First Church) and it worked splendidly. At the Rex, many of these songs seemed ill-suited to her voice and natural talents. Still, Melton is one of the finest young singers there is and it was a treat to see her in such intimate surroundings. It just proved what many people have known for a long time- she's ready for the big stage. We'll get to see that when she performs the role of Sieglinde in SFO's Die Walkure on June 29th.

Herr Feldheim and the Opera Tattler were there, as was the Last Chinese Unicorn (whom I do not believe is any relation to The Little Chinese Man, who has been strangely absent of late), whom I espied but unfortunately did not get to meet as all of them were part of the madding crowd rushing off to the opera house almost as soon as the performance ended.  I have a feeling these same usual suspects will all be at Davies tomorrow night for El NiƱo (which I strongly recommend you do not miss). The Femme and I on the other hand made our way to Koko's (because the obnoxious bartender is still pouring the drinks at the Rex) for a nightcap before parting ways, where they were showing Hitchcock's Psycho on the wall. How interesting it is to discuss the confines of modern life, the instability of relationships, treachery and trust while watching Janet Lee get killed in the shower.