by Carla Breitner
On a warm Saturday evening, the Pasadena Pops presented their July concert, “Summer of Love: Michael Feinstein Sings the Hits of the 60’s.” The program seamlessly blended show tunes, songbook classics and rock anthems, all written during the sixties by everyone from Johnny Mercer to Jim Webb.
As the sun set, Michael Feinstein sang “You and I” from “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (Leslie Bricusse) and captured the mood of the audience on the LA County Arboretum lawn perfectly: “You and I are going on together, Till the time we have is gone together, Watch the evening growing on together…” Feinstein provided story interludes that gave context to the songs and occasionally accompanied himself on piano. He channeled Jerry Lee Lewis dancing at the keyboard for “Great Balls of Fire” and riffed on Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue while asking for audience suggestions for an encore. Feinstein chose Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (out of period from 1937), a song as spritely as “Up, Up and Away” from earlier in the show.
Conductor Larry Blank brought out the big band sound for “Route 66” and supported “Moon River” with romantic strings. Tom Ranier, Tony Bennett’s accompanist, handled piano duties and was featured on “What Kind of Fool am I?” from “Stop the World — I Want to Get Off.” A Doors “Light My Fire” Medley and a Sixties Medley (combining Motown, Bacharach, Lieber & Stoller, Simon & Garfunkel and more) charmed the audience with a clever game of “I know that song.” Feinstein sold the revenge of heartbreak in “I Want to Be Around,” the empty longing in “What Kind of Fool Am I?,” and the joy of finding love in “For Once In My Life.” The concert closed with an appropriate second encore, “Softly As I Leave You.”