When you attend a Cheyenne Jackson concert, you not only learn the range of his vocal talent but also discover a lot about his life.
The natty Jackson first appeared in a white dinner jacket with a bow tie, later changing to a black jacket. His music was an eclectic mix of show tunes and pop hits from various eras. He started with “Stand by Me” and performed a number of songs that he had heard on recordings of jazz singers. From Ella Fitzgerald, he took “A Foggy Day” and from Diana Krall he appropriated her arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” The latter was done as a tribute to his mother, who exposed him to the singer-songwriters of the 1960’s. His rendition of “Feelin’ Good” suggested that he is also an admirer of Nina Simone, who coincidentally made a classic recording at Town Hall.
Jackson grew up as the child of hippies in a backwoods house without running water. He reminisced about his hard-drinking grandmother and his own struggle with alcoholism, proudly proclaiming that he has been sober for two years. In his late grandmother’s memory, he sang his own, “Red Wine Is Good For Your Heart.” He expressed his admiration for George Michael with “Kissing a Fool.”
Jackson serenaded his husband, who was in the balcony, with Elton John’s “Your Song.” His guest artist was Laura Benanti, who sang at his wedding. Actually, she informed the audience that she got engaged the night before, albeit to a man, so maybe Rick Santorum will attend the ceremony.
Benanti sang only one song, an unplugged a cappella rendition of “A Quiet Thing.”
Announcing that he will be co-starring with Lady Gaga in next season’s “American Horror Story,” he sang one of her songs, “The Edge of Glory.” From the swing era, he melded together Hoagy Carmichael’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well” with Duke Elllington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Any More.” From “Finian’s Rainbow”—he had appeared in a revival—he did “Old Devil Moon.” He attributed the short run to the fact that, despite the great score, the show had a poor plot, a sensible assessment.
Recalling his Broadway breakthrough in “All Shook Up,” he performed an Elvis medley, ending with a resplendent rendition of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.”
Jackson has a multi-octave range and a smooth delivery. He started “Besame Mucho” with some notes so low that I thought he was about to launch into a parody. He didn’t. His voice ascends into head tones that are always under complete control. He sang a rousing version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” with all the high notes and without any sense of strain.
His musical accompaniment was tasteful throughout: music director and pianist, Willie Beaman, with Vancil Cooper on drums, Michael O’Brian on bass and Steve Bargonetti on guitar.
Town Hall was filled with his fans and Jackson delivered, as he always does.