The essence of Berlin has been one of the fall of the Communist power in the perception of the West but the effervescent ability of its people to recapture lost ages seems to have taken on a whole new perception with a vitality that seems waiting to be explored.
This celebration was kept in extreme focus through a night of revelry situated around the W Hotel in Westwood, CA and functioned as a hark back to the old days when things were different but no less exciting from an excessive point of view.
As pointed out by more than a few people a couple days before, the aspect of the Roaring Twenties from either burlesque (which in New Orleans and underground LA) to the ultra chic 20s style (like the Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City) is becoming all the rage again. The fact that kids today can get everything and do everything they want will balance elements out quite ironically into a cyclical motion. Kids want what they can’t have. Right now there is lack of elegance on the scene which will become the golden facilitation of the new thought, granted with different social rules of conduct.
What Berlin begins to show in its new promotional campaign is how these clubs, both burlesque and cabaret, are popping up all over the city bringing back a time before the onslaught of the Iron Curtain and the Nazi movement. The dress code is strict and a certain demeanor is required. There are old ballrooms standing in original style, still intact after the bombings of World War II. Add to this, the mysteriousness of a newly opening Spy Museum and a trip filled with intrique and lust are sure to follow depending on the mood created.
To bring this into focus was a performance of Max Raabe & The Palast Orchestra at UCLA’s nearby Royce Hall. Where groups trying to recreate the feeling of cool from the old Cotton Club usually get it wrong because they don’t get the style of smooth and sexy needed to pull it off, this group gets it. Granted certain points with vaudeville don’t meld as great to this time but the sheer instrumentation is allowed to shine as it should. One of the things the great Kitty West, known as one of the most famous burlesque performers in America outside Blaze Starr, says is that the key to a good show is creating an angle of elegance and debauchery. You got that feeling with this performance indicating immense talent but with a bit of fun chicanery going on behind the scenes. This is of course mounted in good effective dialogue and singing by Raabe himself whose precisely placed and executed transitions make the event all the more authentic.
While aspects of Cole Porter and Gershwin are interrelated as far as standards, it is the more obscure pieces maybe not known as well in the States that are interesting because they feel more haunting and vivid as if they came out of “The Shining” which, comparatively as a movie, made you feel at times that you were there as well. That is what these destinations with Berlin are inherent to offer: authenticity. With that low voice and dry wit peppered with sexual innuendo ushered in through the undeniability of a sultry violin or sax quartet, the set here has been staged.
Berlin, within the evening, was able to create a canvas for a very specific kind of experience which is unique specifically both because of its history but also in reference to its culture and geography. It will be interesting to see how its possibilities play out in real time.