After singer Paula West flubbed a lyric on the wordy Hank Williams’ tune “Settin’ the Woods on Fire” at Feinstein’s at the Nikko in The City, she wryly told the audience she wouldn’t be going for the gold on opening night of her six-week engagement.
No matter – the country portion of the concert was just as enjoyable as the show tunes, standards, jazz, blues, swing and rock songs that made up the eclectic set, typical of San Francisco’s classiest vocalist.
Known and loved for keeping things real, West’s Valentine’s-week performance included some fun anti-romance songs including Jerome Kern and and Bernard Dougall’s “I’ll Be Hard to Handle” and Dan Shapiro, Milton Pascal and Phil Charig’s “I Wanna Get Married” (whose narrator is a woman who just gave birth to triplets).
West’s pianist Adam Shulman arranged a killer, almost calypso, version of “It Ain’t Me Babe,” showcasing the band (John Wiitala on bass, Ed Cherry on guitar and Jerome Jennings on drums) and West’s brillance with music by Bob Dylan, one of her favorite composers.
Surprisingly, West included no Cole Porter, but Harold Arlen’s speedy “Happy as the Day Is Long” toward the end of the set seemed to take the place of Porter. And Jerome Kern was nicely represented, with the gorgeous “Bill” from “Showboat” and “I Won’t Dance” made popular by Fred Astaire.
Noting the timely opening of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey,” West, wearing a black dress with red flowers and sparkles and chunky platform sandals, opened with a 1920s-era treatment of the same topic, the funny “Do What You Did Last Night” recorded by Ethel Waters. She also sang Irving Berlin’s “Harlem On My Mind,” another Waters’ tune.
Among the more contemporary selections were Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’,” popularized by Harry Nilsson and the “Midnight Cowboy” soundtrack, and a wild, out-there version of the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime.”
Forever reveling in what she called “twisted” material, West cruised through Oscar Brown’s Jr.’s sassy “The Snake” – her signature tune with its hilarious punch line – for her encore.
Where: Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 222 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. most Thursdays-Fridays, 7 p.m. most Saturdays-Sundays; closes March 22
Tickets: $35 to $50
Contact: (866) 663-1063, www.ticketweb.com