Articles and news related to live appearances

Publication: Record Collector Magazine
By: Paul Davies
Date: 27/4/24

Review of Time Traveler – A Retrospective of Ute’s Life and Music
London, St Martin’s In The Field Church

A bewitching artiste with spellbinding stagecraft, Lemper confirmed her star status in autobiographical storytelling encompassing the arc of her storied career.

Sharing personal Marlene Dietrich anecdotes and recounting the toll that Chicago took, her tales were punctuated by piano and double-bass on sophisticated jazz from the Weimar Republic to the West End, plus her current Time Traveller. Oozing sassy star quality and class, she commanded the venue with her startling vocal range, passionate delivery and magnetic presence, saluting her ecstatic fans on exiting to fervent applause.

By: Andrew Kay
Date: April 26, 2024

To witness the brilliance of perhaps the greatest living chanteuse in the world in the intimate surroundings of The Old Market in Hove will remain one of my most cherished experiences of all time. First aware of her work back in my early twenties when I was fascinated by the arts of the Weimar Republic and in particular Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, I came across her voice on CDs. Little did I know that her early recordings of those songs would spark wider public interest in them, but I was soon to find out far more about how those recordings and her career.

The Time Traveller is far more than a simple concert, it is a theatrical journey, Lemper’s life in both theatre and in song, and it is a lavish tale told with passion and with skill. Her early life, her home life, her student days and her travels.Travel is the key that the evening is sung in, looking down, with some disdain, from her seat in economy, at the waves in the ocean below and comparing them to the wrinkles on the back of her hands, she is constantly on the move, from ancient Europe to new Europe and modern Europe before finally returning to her adopted Manhattan home.

The journey take in her time in Paris playing Peter Pan and the joy of flying on stage, then Sally Bowles in Cabaret, a role she does not dwell on or sing more than a few bars of. Then on to being cast as Velma Kelly in Kander and Ebb’s brilliant Chicago. Here she does pause and sing, and tells how the rigours of Bob Fosse’s choreography have impacted on her physical well-being. Lemper can deliver humour with a wry smile and do it well.

There’s a fabulous section devoted to Weill and Brecht and to my total joy a long passage from Die Dreigroschenoper, where she slides from English to guttural German with great dramatic effect. And drama is the second key in which she delivers the evening, she is without doubt a great actress.

A passage dedicated to a previous show, Rendezvous With Marlene, is both fascinating and hilarious, a conversation, three hours by telephone with Dietrich is recounted, in short, and to great effect. And with equal openness she talks of her failed relationship with her mother and about her own attitude to motherhood and her much loved family.

She is also a woman fired by passion and politics, stories of feeling isolated while living in West Berlin and of course her work in creating songs from the poetry of concentration camp victims and survivors. The songs she delivers from her Songs For Eternity project are deeply moving but equally so are her more contemporary compositions from her new album. And in researching her life and work there are few composers she has not worked with or sung, it is a catalogue so catholic in it’s breadth that it is hard to imaging how she has fitted it all in, but she has, clearly a very dedicated performer.

So finally on to the voice, yes a long time in coming but so much more to this woman than simply song. The voice is extraordinary, the range vast, the tone even wider, slipping with ease from gentle and soothing, sweet even, to rasping and filled with anger and perhaps venom. There is abundant evidence of the classical but it is interlaced with jazz. Few singers can really deliver that scat phenomenon, but Ute scatters the stage with notes, soaring riffs and scales, blasts of horns, searing trills, it’s a universe of sound but one that never ever loses touch with the original melody, the heart of a song.

Lemper is accompanied throughout by the brilliant pianist Vana Gierig and bassist Giuseppe Bassi who not only deliver the songs but delicately colour the narrative.

I was lucky enough to see her play Velma Kelly in the West End, but luckier still to have now seen and heard the true expanse of this sensational woman’s talent.

Andrew Kay

The Old Market
26 April


Click here to read the review on The Latest.

Publication: Financial Times US
By: Arwa Haider
DAte: 9 Apr 2024

Ute Lemper is touring with a show that reflects on her stellar career as a singer, performer and cabaret icon. She talks to Arwa Haider

In the twilight haze of New York’s 54 Below club, it’s hard to tell what time it is. Onstage, the German singer, performer and cabaret icon Ute Lemper is sound-checking Rendezvous With Marlene, a show based on her late-1980s encounter with an octogenarian Marlene Dietrich. The story is unusual; the scene feels especially surreal, because I’m watching via a transatlantic video call to Lemper’s mobile — but it’s enchanting to witness her channel the elegant yet embittered Dietrich, singing classics including “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”. At the same time, she sounds unmistakably Lemper: wry, alluring, icy yet incandescent.“

“I always wanted to use singing, performing and telling a story as a profound identification with my feeling of life, my own outrage, hurt, hope, happiness,” says Lemper, now offstage. “I never wanted to imitate anyone; I was way too full of my own passions.”

Lemper, 60, grew up in Münster, Germany, in what she describes as a conservative home (her parents were musical but prioritised their “normal jobs”). By her teens, Lemper was singing in a jazz-rock group before studying dance in Cologne, then drama at Vienna’s Max Reinhardt Seminary. In Paris in 1987, her lead performance in Cabaret won major accolades, with many reviewers likening Lemper to Dietrich. The rising star wrote to the reclusive grande dame, apologising for these bold comparisons; unexpectedly, Dietrich phoned Lemper and they spoke at length.

“It inspired this work about human contact: between the inexperienced youth and the old experienced woman who was jaded yet had so much to say,” explains Lemper.

In the decades since Dietrich’s call, Lemper’s career has encompassed Weimar-era cabaret as the eminent modern interpreter of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s songbook, musical theatre, including her award-winning role in the London and Broadway productions of Chicago, movies (she was a heavily pregnant fashionista in Robert Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter), and more. She has been both maverick and muse; her 2000 album Punishing Kiss featured songs written for her by the likes of Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and Scott Walker. Her delivery remains deliciously sharp, but her approach has become more reflective, and her upcoming Time Traveller tour highlights her creative range.

Time Traveller shares its name with Lemper’s latest album, as well as her autobiography (an English translation is planned). Both the record and the book draw from her archives; she found herself updating early compositions and revisiting a memoir she’d been commissioned to write in her twenties.
“The first 10 years of my career were overwhelmingly intense,” she says. “I was still a nomad, running from city to city, under the pressure of this enormous career. And there was the backdrop of extreme metamorphosis in Germany, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the new Europe breaking open…”

While Lemper has been settled in New York for some years, Berlin has never left her: “There was a rebel in me that could very much be inspired by this place that was torn into two halves in the middle of East Germany — the Berlin of this anarchic, rebellious spirit, where I really had a wake-up call as a young German, an artist and a woman.”

It sounds as if Lemper has always been punk at heart. She smiles: “I didn’t need the piercings and tattoos… but I felt like kind of an outcast. I had my music to escape — and the families I found in the theatres: exotic people, paradise birds who made the night the realm of fulfilment. This piece of Berlin stayed with me, always this realism and expressionism, when I was Sally Bowles [in Cabaret] in Paris, when I was Velma Kelly [in Chicago] in London or on Broadway.”

Berlin also endures in Lemper’s fantastically vivid interpretations of the Weimar-era collaborations of Brecht and Weill, including cabaret songs from The Threepenny Opera and Happy End. Her versions have been celebrated since her debut solo album, Ute Lemper Singt Kurt Weill (apparently Dietrich was quite proprietorial about this during their call), and she has proved a modern champion for this material.

Still, she says, “In the beginning, the Weill Foundation was a bit of a bummer because they put so many limitations on things. We called them the Weill Police. In 1987 in Berlin, I was recording in the studio, and there was a member of the Kurt Weill Foundation in the singing booth with me, their finger on the score saying: ‘Do not speak this. This has to be sung.’ I’d still put intention into the singing. But obviously, I didn’t like the authoritarian control.”

Why does Lemper think contemporary artists and audiences are still attracted to cabaret? “This original material from Weimar was so important: these repertoires about homosexuality, freedom of [female] emancipation, freedom of choice, political corruption… Cabaret is light entertainment, but it taps into all the social taboos. People love to go out for dinner and drinks, and to watch this form that pushes boundaries. Cabaret can go much further than musical theatre can.”

Musical theatre blockbusters hold little appeal for Lemper nowadays. “Sometimes I had issues working with directors, when I had to obey something that I didn’t feel,” she says. “I even struggled with Chicago, because I found the part of Velma like a slapstick caricature of what I was supposed to be. Although I loved the really strong athletic dancing of the Bob Fosse theatre.”

It has always been extraordinary to watch Lemper’s powerfully slinky take on classic Fosse moves. “I don’t know; right now, I need a new hip,” she laughs ruefully. “It demanded such physical strength to do these eight shows a week.”

Lemper’s tour and album allow her to revisit all these parts of her career, taking inspiration from decades of experience and unexpected connections, creating work that she describes as “a labour of love”. “I was not ever planning my future,” she says. “I was not even expecting a future. It took me a while to find my world.”

Ute Lemper’s UK tour begins on April 24 at Bristol St George’s. ‘Time Traveller’ is out now,

Publication: Broadway World
By: Sharon Ellman
Date: February 11, 2024

As if a troubadour of old, Ute Lemper takes us on a historical journey through song

Stepping into Carnegie Hall’s presentation of Ute Lemper, WEIMAR BERLIN AND AFTER THE EXODUS on February 9, 2024 was as if leaping into the distant past. The show, part of a festival of Fall of The Weimar Republic: Dancing on the Precipice, delves into the arts and culture of this short yet important period in the world of innovative art and culture. As if a troubadour of old, the star of the show, Ute Lemper took the filled audience on a journey through song.  Theatergoers voyaged through the story of German post World War I economic hardship, coming into the sunshine of freedom, democracy, capitalistic decadence and finally devoured by the darkness of Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Lemper narrates as she moves musically from the economic poverty of the uncontrolled inflation of the German economy in post World War I. Along with her band, Vana Gierig (piano), Matthew Parrish (Bass), Todd Turkisher (Drums) and Cyrus Beroukhim (violin) she enters the stage, immersed within the center of the audience, dressed as impoverished street musicians to begin the story of the poverty and out of control hyperinflation which overwhelmed German lives in 1923.

The audience is then joyfully carried into 1924 when the creation of the Reichsmark stabilizes the inflation and Germans begin a life of fun.  “Divine decadence”, as Sally Bowles declared in Cabaret, was merely the icing on the Weimar cake.  Fun, frolic and morality all vied for the spotlight now. Lemper’s intense and emotionally powerful vocals brought us from the self indulgence of the decade onward with her renditions of “The Ballad of Mack The Knife” and “Life’s a Swindle” to “Pirate Jenny.” Channeling Marlene Dietrich, the songstress oozed the famed seductive screen siren’s androgynous sex appeal that marked a revolution during the Weimar period.  Lemper’s low and sultry English as well German language performances of “Just a Gigolo”, “Sex Appeal” and “Ich bin die fesche Lola” displayed the overtly sexual culture that had evolved in the freedom of society that was the late 20’s and early 30’s in Germany.  She aptly referred to this time as “dancing on the edge of the volcano.”

But by 1933 onward, all civilian rights and the independence of individuals to live their lives as they wished was slowly but surely curtailed by Hitler and the Nazi Party.  Ute Lemper  portrayed the music of those that ran into exile, like composer Hanns Eisler as well as the other composers, artists, singers, poets and writers who despite remaining hopeful were doomed to the ghettos and concentration camps that foretold death.

Throughout the performance, the fair-haired chanteuse changed costume from drab street musician attire, to black gown, jumpsuit, sexy red evening attire and ending with a long black somber covering jacket all while remaining on the stage – unbelievably peeling off one outfit after another.   Her physical transformation was like that of a chameleon adapting to its environment – each time clad in clothing that represented the ensuing change of political and hence cultural attitude.   From her appearance, we saw the Weimar Republic begin its rise from the ashes of the horrors of World War I, peak in cultural and societal openness and then just as swiftly crumbled due to the destruction of the country’s democratic government.

This reviewer was overwhelmed by the emotionally intense performance that was Ute Lemper, WEIMAR BERLIN AND AFTER THE EXODUS.  Using the music of the time as the conduit, Ute Lemperweaved a tale that began in darkness, became a  pinnacle of creative light and then succumbed to the murky depths of destruction nearly a century ago.  This very unusual cabaret production was much an homage to what could have been and what should have been if it had not been destroyed by the Nazis. Ute Lemper, WEIMAR BERLIN AND AFTER THE EXODUS featured the renowned singer Ute Lemper, with her band consisting of Vana Gierig (piano), Matthew Parrish (Bass), Todd Turkisher (Drums) and Cyrus Beroukhim (violin).

Find great shows to see on the Carnegie Hall website HERE.

Excuse Us, Ms. Lemper… Your Weimar Is Showing

Publication: Broadway World Cabaret
by: Bobby Patrick
Date: Mar. 29, 2023

Ute Lemper at 54Below in NYC, photo by Bobby Patrick
Ute Lemper at 54Below in NYC, photo by Bobby Patrick

Heigh-Ho, My Merry Rainbow Tribe! Bobby Patrick your RAINBOW Reviewer here. Grabbing that silent T in cabareT to bring you all the Tea!

Last Saturday’s 7 PM show at 54 Below finally had your favorite cabaret reviewer in the same room with the legendary Lemper… Ute Lemper brought her LILI MARLEEN – FROM WEIMAR TO THERESIENSTADT to where it truly belongs – Under the street. The culture of Weimar that grew in Germany between 1918 & 1933 was truly an underground revolution that was key to how and why the ’20s roared in that part of Europe. All good things must come to an end, especially when Nazis crash the party, and the all-too-short decade and a half that was the halcyon days of that era of freedom gave way to the ultimate oppressors. These days we have a few creative souls dedicated to keeping Weimar alive in small pockets of performing venues in NYC and a few other large cities. Young Kim David Smith and even younger Artemisia LeFay are shining examples of Gen Z’ers who embrace, rather than ignore or even repudiate, our creative pasts. The expressionism of Weimar also lives on in Ute Lemper, whose Kabarett performance Saturday night was painted in the stark shades of bright white, sharply punctuated with shafts of black throughout. Her Haunting opening mashup of Philip Glass’s STREETS OF BERLIN with Weill & Brecht’s ALABAMA SONG & BILBAO SONG perfectly evoked the Weimar dames like Marlene Dietrich and Lotte Lenya. Oh, those growled R’s and her eyes that see only what she needs to see, all the while mining diamonds and hot coals from her voice box, an instrument that yields a belting mezzo with a solid alto crossover. The audience is essential to her, as is the drama of a ’20s that really roared.

Recalling the dark times of then and now, Lemper’s voice is a wail for society, with A-tonal disturbances that cry out for free speech and expression, then, suddenly, some major chords and “pretty” intervals are dropped in, quite unexpectedly. Ute goes from pretty to thrilling and back again, as she tells stories that walk through the days before and during WWII. Telling the gut-wrenching story of Ilsa Weber, and then giving an equally moving rendition of the lady’s song about the concentration camp THERESIENSTADT (the camp for artists and musicians, before being sent to Auschwitz) left all open-mouthed with a mixture of loss and admiration for Weber and her words. With perfect support from Vana Gierig on piano, and Cyrus Beroukhim on violin, Ute was able to ride their waves of music, which were always filling but never overfilling the space, allowing their star to dominate. One comes to an understanding, at Lemper’s hands, that the realities of German society before… you know who… was that of a culture in flux from what it had been, under a harsh nobility, through a time of unprecedented freedom of expression and speech. It was a joyous time… until it wasn’t, and what the Lady Lemper creates with her show is THEATRE, my lambs.

Ute Lemper at 54Below in NYC, photo by Bobby Patrick
Ute Lemper at 54Below in NYC, photo by Bobby Patrick

Another highlight of Lemper’s show was her title song LILI MARLEEN, a tune Herman Göring called “Kitsch with the smell of corpses.” In her talkie bits around the number, Ute told of how the song became Marlene Detrich’s theme and that she went on to sing it in public and on several albums. In 1939, Marlene became a devoted American citizen with such a distaste for Adolf that she even entertained thoughts of getting close enough to him to kill him during an invited visit to Germany, a plan she later thought better of. Marlene’s patriotism for her adopted country meant she was barred from Germany’s shores for years. Brilliantly recreating the moment of Dietrich’s triumphant return for a UNICEF GALA in the ’60s La Lemper touched every heart in the house with Pete Seger’s WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE as her finale for the night and, despite the rousing standing ovation and calls for MORE, there was no encore, leaving us all wanting that more.

Embracing, as she does, the stark expressionism of Weimar and the darker stories of Jewish oppression, Lemper’s show is one of the most uplifting pieces of theatre we have seen in a while. Her performance of each song and of her spontaneously spoken script took the room back, gave us a modern perspective on songs that were never silenced, no matter the highs and lows of life, and rang out with the catchphrase of the Kabarett In Exile formed briefly by Brecht and Eisler, “We’re Not afraid to be queer and different.”

In the end, through her sense of drama and the music of Holleander, Spoliansky, Brecht, and, yes, even Seger, Ute Lember built a smokey, dimly lit, and incredibly exciting Kabarett room under 54th Street. She let light shine in controlled measures and painted in the shadows as she sang, and, for all of that, we give LILI MARLEEN – FROM WEIMAR TO THERESIENSTADT At 54 Below a resounding…5 Out Of 5 Rainbows

Ute Lemper at 54Below in NYC, photo by Bobby Patrick
Ute Lemper at 54Below in NYC, photo by Bobby Patrick

We Could Only Wish That The Lady Had More NYC Performances Scheduled This Month, But Do Keep Up With Her Calendar: HERE

Read, My Boss, Stephen Mosher’s Review Of The Lady’s RENDEZVOUS WITH MARLENE: HERE

All Photos By Yours Truly, Bobby Patrick

Click HERE to read see review along with more fabulous photos from the performance by Bobby, on the Broadway World site.