Singer Paula West appears in residency at Hotel Nikko this month backed by Adam Shulman on piano, Ed Cherry on guitar and Jerome Jennings on drums. (Courtesy James Barry Knox Photography)

Singer Paula West appears in residency at Hotel Nikko this month backed by Adam Shulman on piano, Ed Cherry on guitar and Jerome Jennings on drums. (Courtesy James Barry Knox Photography)

Paula West opens new room at Hotel Nikko

SF vocal great returns to in-person performance

A beloved Bay Area musician marks her first in-person-with-an-audience COVID-era event this Friday when jazz and cabaret icon Paula West steps onstage at the Nikko Hotel this weekend.

It’s a combination of something old and something new.

The old is that West is reviving her tradition of extended residencies she performed in The City at the fondly-remembered Plush Room as well as at Feinstein’s at the Nikko and its predecessor The Rrazz Room. This booking is scheduled through Aug. 28.

The new is that Feinstein’s is bringing a long-aborning plan for a second venue within the Nikko to fruition for the West run, while the lobby-level room where she last performed in early 2020 undergoes extensive renovations.

It’s not the first time West has performed in an alternate location at the Nikko. Back in 2008 the scheduling gods did not align between her booking dates and the deadline on extensive renovations to convert a lobby meeting space into the nascent Rrazz Room. The show did go on, but in a hastily arranged alternate Nikko location. “It was after [Hurricane] Katrina,” she remembers, “so I called it my FEMA trailer.”

More recently, West rode out the lockdown period from her apartment on Nob Hill. She was joined in October by Dylan, her new French bulldog, who fills the void in her heart left by the death of Satchmo, her previous and extremely social canine companion.

“When the pandemic first started, people were saying it would be over by May (2020), but I knew it was going to last a lot longer.” Like many performers whose work ended abruptly, West turned to live-streamed concerts to generate income, creativity and some connection with her world. “They saved my ass, those live-streams.”

An active social media user — Facebook is her platform for biting red carpet fashion critique and political and social justice commentary — West also exercised her activist side with online events. “I didn’t get too much into Zoom, but I did do some election-related events with Nancy Pelosi’s people where she participated, and I did an event for International Women’s Day.”

She’s now watching pandemic news, from variants to vaccine resistance, with a wary eye. “I don’t want to do all this – wear masks, be distant, not travel freely – but you do what you have to do both for yourself and for other people. Those who don’t are slowing up the process for everybody else.”

“I’m glad Feinstein’s is being responsible about it and requiring proof of vaccination and mask wearing,” she adds, further noting that if she sees an audience member without a mask, “I’ll ask them to put one on and if they refuse, I’ll have them kicked out. I can’t see that happening, though.”


Paula West

Where: Nikko Ballroom, 222 Mason St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, Aug. 13- Aug. 28

Tickets: $75 to $80

Contact: (866) 663-1063,

Pop MusicSan Francisco

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