Saturday night I had the pleasure of seeing Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester perform for the first time. The dapper Raabe crooned his way through the two-hour set while the twelve piece orchestra dazzled the audience with exquisite renditions of songs from the 20s and 30s. The setting, Oakland's Paramount Theatre, added an aura of authenticity to it all and was buzzing with people in period dress. It was like taking a step back into a past most of us only know from the movies.
The set was comprised of Weimar- era and American songs sung in German or English. Raabe, a baritone who sang mostly in falsetto, introduced each song in a deadpan demeanor, often with a wry joke. His movements are minimal and when not at the microphone he would step back to lean against the piano and watch the others. All of the musicians played more than one instrument and some of the changes were quite surprising, for example when one the horn players pulled out a violin and and strode to center stage. While Raabe's a captivating center, the personalities of the musicians emerge throughout to make the show much more than a singer with a back-up band. It's truly a flawlessly choreographed show performed by 13 people. Among the many highlights were Weill's "Alabama Song" and Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek," which prompted the octogenarians seated next to us to sing along.
My only complaint was the lack of a dance floor for some foxtrotting, but that's a small quibble- this was one of the most delightful performances I've seen in recent memory.
After the show, the Minister's Rebellious Daughter, Chad Newsome, Axel Feldheim and I went around the corner for drinks at the very lively Flora, where we spotted Raabe at the bar.
The concert was presented by SFJazz.