It seemed to me the entire retired community of Santa Barbara made its way downtown Monday to the Lobero Theatre to see jazz artist Madeleine Peyroux perform.
Peyroux sang hits off her much-anticipated album Standin’ on the Rooftop along with crowd favorites in the second installment of Lobero Theatre’s “A Woman’s Voice” series. She reeled the congregation of elderly men and women in with a number that sounded more like a seductive conversation than an actual song. The audience fell under her spell from the first song. All spectators traveled back in time to a 1950s nightclub as she continued to sing old jazz tunes — most notably a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love.”
Like a cat-and-mouse game, Peyroux lured her prey in with sultry notes but refused them the satisfaction of full-on belting. She held back just enough for the audience to crave more. All throughout the show, she maintained constant control of her vocals. She knew exactly what she was doing, mesmerizing the crowd with sensual melodies until they had no other choice but to demand an encore.
After receiving an impressive standing ovation, Peyroux returned to the stage with a cover of “La Vie En Rose.” The crowd fell silent as she sang in her native tongue of French. Often paralleled to the jazz songstress Billie Holiday, Peyroux did not suffer from the comparison to the now-deceased artist.
Sunny War, a Venice local, opened the house for Peyroux with soft, whimsical tunes similar to those of Lily Allen with a blues twist. Most of her songs sounded light and cheerful, but the lyrics proved otherwise. She explained that her song “Social Suicide” referred to marriage.
“This is about marriage and you guys can relate since you’re probably married and divorced,” War said.
She talked to the audience on a very personal level, even venturing to comment on the obvious age group present.
“Now I’m gonna play a song for your generation. I was joking, though. You guys aren’t old. You guys are young souls and that’s all that counts,” War said.
“Yeah we are!” someone yelled in response.
Although Peyroux’s and War’s sets consisted not only of jazz tunes but also blues and folk, jazz seemed to be the dominant force. It is a shame that I seemed to be the youngest one present in the room. I wondered to myself where all those people who claim to listen to “everything” were at that particular moment. Maybe an emergency sprung onto them. A broken leg. A car accident. Or maybe just a midterm to study for. Nevertheless, jazz is a dying art, at least among the younger generation. So the next time someone asks you, “What kind of music do you listen to?” and you respond, “Everything,” remind yourself to check out Madeleine Peyroux’s new album Standin’ on the Rooftop, coming out June 7.