Kabarett Dekadenz

I was a tourist in the Bay Area the first time I ever attended an event at The Uptown, Oakland's little night club that could. All I remember about the act performing that night is that they were very forgettable. I remember mostly the crowd — a motley crew of fun seekers who packed the bar and theater. People stood shoulder-to-shoulder with drinks cupped near them to avoid spillage. Strangers drank a cocktail of proximity and weekend night enthusiasm that smoothed the edges and allowed them to make fast friends. Everyone seemed to be connected, together. The whole place seemed alive.

Fast forward to last Saturday night, and you'd never have been able to tell that this was the same place. I've been to some recent shows there that filled out the theater, but nothing that rivals previous experiences. This weekend, it was practically a ghost town. Gymnasts could have practiced their floor routine on the empty hardwood leading up to the stage, with just a small milling of folks lined up by the stage and along the walls.

It's a shame, too, because Kabarett Decadenz absolutely lit up the stage. I have to say, I was a little wary of a cover band that describes themselves as "Weimar-inspired performance venture." Gimmicks and schtick are not really my thing; I'm here for the rock and roll.

Well, I can tell you the Kabarett is no gimmick. Singer Dorian Deitrich has a deep, buttery voice that holds strong even when nuanced with vulnerability. While cooing, "There's room for all, love for all," during a cover of Marlene Deitrich's "Look Me Over Closely," Dietrich touches upon the softness that is enveloped in a woman's strength in the most beautiful way. Similarly, her the strength in her voice really encapsulated the life-changing reign of terror in "Pirate Jenny" from The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill. I've seen that song sung by very earnest theater students who sang it cleanly and probably "correctly" but not nearly as soulfully at Dietrich.

It wasn't all a German sing-along, though. The initial song of the night, was a bombastic version of "One Step Beyond," in which the saxophonist ground out that dizzying churn that the song — Madness' version, in particular — is known for. I've been told that the saxophone is the ukulele of wind instruments: it's very easy to play as long as you are satisfied with playing it badly. So, it's a real treat to hear someone play it so artfully and with such force. The rest of the band was top notch as well — tight and seemingly malleable to any type of music, with rock songs such as the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" and The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" covered with as much expertise as the Weimar-era tunes. The band's saxophonist even took the microphone for one song, doing a jovial version of Squirrel Nut Zippers' "Hell."

Kabarett did not hog the microphone all to themselves, though. A couple of guest singers joined them on stage, local artists Magnoliah Black and Charlie D. Gray. Both gave enchanting performances, backed by Kabarett's thrilling band.

If you get a chance to see Kabarett, I highly recommend it. On the surface, they seem like they would appeal to a very niche audience, but it turns out there's a little something for everyone.

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