Pink Martini Dazzles at the Arlington
By Rebecca Horrigan
True to their tradition of bringing warmth all year round, Pink Martini kindled the fire for their Holiday Spectacular concert on Saturday, December 2, at the Arlington Theatre, courtesy of Arts & Lectures.
Performing a mix of seasonal songs and original hits, the band of a dozen musicians brought an undeniable warmth and exuberance to the packed house of loyal fans. The group didn’t miss a beat the entire night, combining intricate rhythms and complex arrangements in a way that appeared effortless, and most obviously -- fun.
Pink Martini was formed 23 years ago in Portland, Oregon, by the talented and gregarious piano player, Thomas Lauderdale. A smart, funny, and magnetic frontman, it’s no wonder he dreamed of working in politics. Lauderdale founded Pink Martini to play at political events with the hope that their inclusive energy and musical inspiration drawn from all over the world would appeal to both conservatives and liberals alike.
In this politically divisive time, Lauderdale’s brand of uplifting songs was just what the audience at the Arlington needed. The large crowd savored every song. With smiles on their faces and rapt attention, they were swept away in a world tour of tunes sung in a variety of languages.
Powerhouse vocalist and Lauderdale’s former classmate at Harvard, China Forbes oozed confidence, ease, and undeniable vocal chops, weaving her way through songs in Arabic, Armenian, Spanish and more, with the dexterity of a world traveler.
Highlights from their holiday numbers included the classic “Auld Lang Syne,” which was given the Pink Martini treatment with the chorus sung in a variety of languages, and the hypnotizing “Do you See What I See?”
The band’s stunning multicultural chops shined in their upbeat hit, “Sympathique,” which was nominated for “Song of the Year” in France’s Victories de la Musique Awards. While fan favorite, “Hang on Little Tomato,” brought a message of hope and humor to the jubilant crowd.
Lauderdale has said, “We’re very much an American band, but we spend a lot of time abroad and therefore have the incredible diplomatic opportunity to represent a broader, more inclusive America...the America which remains the most heterogeneously populated country in the world...composed of people of every country, every language, every religion.”
The most powerful moments of the show effervesced when Pink Martini bravely invited the audience to join them onstage. During their version of “I am Woman” by Helen Reddy, a stream of ladies young and old poured onto the stage singing and swaying in collective pride to lyrics like “You can bend but never break me / Cause it only serves to make me / More determined to achieve my final goal.” On the heels of the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March, the attendees seemed to adamantly welcome another chance for solidarity and a communal rallying cry.
The women moved behind the musicians for “The Flying Squirrel,” a rollicking swing number complete with striking horns and a dizzying drum solo. As eager admirers swayed, clapped, and boogied to the beat, it was amazing to see musicians so open to people being right in their space.
I suppose this is one of the many wonderful things about Pink Martini, they really do seem to be music for the people. Their shows are incredibly interactive and welcome all kinds of audience participation. The music transcends genres, appealing to the innate need of humankind for communion with others, self-expression, and perhaps something to sway to.
Rebecca Horrigan is a freelance writer and local educator. The Holiday Spectacular was hosted by UCSB Arts & Lectures.