The music of Cole Porter has always had a kind of mutability and magic to it. A highly successful songwriter for the Broadway stage in the twenties and thirties, Porter’s music has sustained its popularity even to today. Despite the fact that much of his work would be at home played by a fifteen piece jazz orchestra, Porter wrote music simply and elegantly, allowing for small bands to perform it with intimacy.
Pam Lawson and her band have taken the latter approach, and have put together a show which does well to show a good range of Porter’s material. Comprised of keyboard, trombone, double bass, drums and vocals, the band covers most of Porter’s most famous songs, while continually mixing up the tempo and keeping the setlist interesting. Classics like ‘De-lovely’, ‘Let’s Do It’, and ‘Night and Day’ are well adapted.
Lawson’s vocals are very fitting for the songs, some of which sound very similar to the seminal Ella Fitzgerald recordings, such as on the show’s title track, ‘Anything Goes’. At times she could be a bit pitchy, but for the most part sang very nicely. Although the rest of the band seemed, at times, rather uninterested, or at the very least unimaginative. Their solos were rather slurred or quiet and didn’t add much to the songs.
Citing trouble with whittling down the original thirty song setlist, the show’s title, Anything Goes, is a reference to how the show is put together as well as the title to one of Porter’s classics. As she couldn’t bear to cut so much material from the show, many of Porter’s songs are placed into hats for audience members to choose from at random at specific points during the show. This is a rather charming idea that gives the show a sense of uniqueness every night - yet it was only used twice. So much of Porter’s material is familiar to everyone that such an element of surprise could have been a great element if it had been better utilised.
Outside of Lawson, the music seemed sleepy and, at times, messy. This is potentially down to their needing to learn a thirty song set list for a twelve song show. Yet through it all, there is sense that Porter’s music retains an unmistakable charm and elegance. Lawson does well to not try and over-complicate her show instrumentally and let Porter’s simple songwriting do the work, although the tribute would do better with a little bit of creative help from her band.