Despite serious social turmoil in nearby Asbury Park last week, British songstress Petula Clark drew admiring swarms of summer concertgoers throughout her week-long engagement at the handsome Garden State Arts Center. Her act was polished, combining wit and nonchalance with a distinctive and sensitive singing style, and it no doubt pleased her fans as well as winning her new devotees who had thought of her only as the girl who sings "Downtown."
Basically, Miss Clark's set is constructed around her personal hits, "I Know a Place," "Don't Sleep in the Subway," "This Is My Song," "My Love" and "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love," but she also delivered standards and near-standards like Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" as well as newer material including Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Highlights of the evening were a moving interpretation of the vastly underrated Leslie Bricusse ballad "You and I," and a "Beat Goes On" medley, an historical review of rhythm which had the singer performing everything from Strauss-like waltzes to Elvis-flavored rock.
Backing the vocalist was a fine orchestra made up of brass and reeds from the Buddy Rich band, plus strings, plus Clark regulars Hugh McCracken on lead guitar and Kirk Hamilton on bass. Frank Owens, Petula Clark's musical director, conducted from the piano neatly coordinating the overall blend.