Album Review: Patti LuPone – Far Away Places, Live at 54 Below (2012)

“You couldn’t ever guess to who you’re talkin'”

I loved La LuPone’s Matters of the Heart and so I happily turned to her 2012 live album the inaugural entry in the Live at 54 Below series which has now established itself as the premiere place for Broadway stars to get their cabaret on. It doesn’t quite hit the same heights though, live recordings often finding it tricky to translate what works so well in an intimate atmosphere onto record without making it feel like you’ve missed out.

And LuPone is such the consummate performer that there is an element of that here, her anecdotes skilfully woven into the repertoire, mixing up detailed stories with pithy one-liners (and of course a reference to her epic mobile phone meltdown) with skill and aplomb. It’s like you’re there, except you’re not and never will be and if you’re not as well-adjusted as me, you might find such realisations provoke inordinate jealousy! 

More significantly though, I just didn’t like the song selection as much as I thought I would. Centred on the theme of travel, it works in a whole lotta Brecht with its Sondheim and Cole Porter and no matter how entertaining the performance level is, it just doesn’t grip me as much. The reprise of Piaf pastiche ‘I Regret Everything’ gains nothing in its live version, detracting from the following stirring rendition of ‘Hymn To Love’. The Threepenny Opera’s ‘Pirate Jenny’ is a rare high-point but too often, my mind wandered whilst listening to this collection, which is really not you want.

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