Feinstein swings with the symphony

Michael Feinstein isn’t simply paying lip service when he says The City is a special place.

San Francisco is where I had my first major success,” said the country’s most prominent interpreter of standards during a recent phone conversation.

The Los Angeles-based musician (who also has a club in New York), comes to town to sing with the San Francisco Symphony in Davies Hall performances. Sunday’s show is called “New York Nights”; Monday’s is a New Year’s Eve gala featuring champagne, refreshments, balloons and dancing following the concert.

“It’s my 20th anniversary with San Francisco. It’s the first place where I ever performed with an orchestra,” he says, describing a San Francisco Symphony pops show in July of 1987 conducted by John Dankworth in which he played “Rhapsody in Blue.”

As they typically do, Feinstein’s weekend concerts will include songs by George and Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter — “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “At Long Last Love,” for example.

He’ll be doing “a lot” of love songs. “The end of the year is sentimental,” he says.

Even though the tunes he sings are familiar and performed often, Feinstein never gets tired of them.

“The material is timeless,” he says. “It’s organic for me.” He points out that’s not the case for some people, mentioning Rod Stewart, who sold “how many millions” of CDs of “superficial” and “formulaic” interpretations of standards.

Feinstein contrasts his own performance style, how he really “gets inside the lyric.” It’s a skill he honed working in piano bars for so many years, he says.

If he does get tired of a song, he’ll retire it. But his program also is dependent on listeners: “It’s the enthusiasm of the audience; it’s not about me,” he says.

He doesn’t think he’ll ever run out of songs to perform. “I have a collection of music that’s massive — 20,000 pieces. I’ll die before I sing every song I want to sing,” he says.

Among Feinstein’s more memorable gigs was back in 1985, when he played San Francisco’s Plush Room. The club had just reopened after it was renovated.

Around that time, he was no stranger to The City. A vegan, he enjoyed eating at Greens and hanging out in Chinatown, where he also found good vegetarian dining — and foot massages.

During this weekend’s short visit — he’ll be off for a short, relaxing break at home before going to London — he may get the chance to see friends.

If not, he’ll definitely enjoy the warmth of his audiences in San Francisco. He says, “This is the place where I discovered I could have a career.”

lkatz@examiner.com

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco police investigated the scene of a police shooting near Varney Place and Third Street on May 7. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFPD shooting may prompt new body camera rules for plainclothes cops

Police chief says incident ‘should not have happened’

Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference about a $12 billion package bolstering the state’s response to the homelessness crisis at the Kearney Vista Apartments on May 11, 2021 in San Diego, California. (K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)
Newsom promises sweeping change in California’s $267-billion budget

John Myers Los Angeles Times California would embark on the most ambitious… Continue reading

Despite the pandemic, San Francisco has ended the fiscal year with a budget surplus. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Better than expected tax revenues leave city with $157.3M surplus for this year

As the fiscal year nears an end and Mayor London Breed prepares… Continue reading

Passengers board a BART train bound for the San Francisco Airport at Powell Street station. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
BART bumps up service restoration to August 30, offers fare discounts

Rail agency breaks pandemic ridership records, prepares to welcome more passengers

Ashley and Michelle Monterrosa hold a photo of their brother Sean Monterrosa, who was killed by a Vallejo police officer early Tuesday morning, as they are comforted at a memorial rally at the 24th Street Mission BART plaza on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
State Department of Justice to investigate Sean Monterrosa shooting by Vallejo police

Attorney General Rob Bonta steps in after Solano County DA declines case

Most Read