5,500 Enchanted by Petula Clark
by Glenn C. Pullen
Buddy Rich's orchestra was just window-dressing in the pop concert it opened Saturday night at Public Hall under sponsorship of WJW Radio and Belkin Productions.
Rich, a fiery drumming genius, and his 15-piece crew blazed through powerhouse rhythms that drew only a few ripples of applause from about 5,500 listeners. It was a crowd of passionately loyal Petula Clark buffs who apparently do not care a hang for rock, soul or hot jazz music.
They saved all their hand-clapping for the British singing wonder-girl whose radiant voice has captured awards for best-selling discs on both sides of the Atlantic. Petula proved she was worthy of this adoration.
Her tasteful one-woman show was filled with lovely songs executed with a rare kind of bewitching lyric individuality. This tiny blonde singer, who appeared in a pink sheath dress plus a silver and purple jacket, hurdled several handicaps in the huge auditorium.
There were some complaints from the people in rear balcony seats about the faulty sound amplifying system. It was not so noticeable on the lower floor. Petula magically created an air of endearing intimacy as her clear, elfinish voice came lilting through "This Girl's in Love with You," "I Know a Place" and her other prize-winners.
Compared to most American song-belters, she was an audience spoiler. Her showmanship had the grace of her delicate gestures as she easily moved around the big stage with a portable microphone. And although many of her numbers were standards, they were given a sparkling new rainbow coloration by her whimsical personality and British wit.
That musical-comedy talent, which she displayed in about 30 movies, was delightfully expressive in her Cockney delineations in a My Fair Lady medley. A 25-piece orchestra, built around her own group and many of Buddy Rich's musicians, were responsible for a lush-toned accompaniment.
Conducted deftly by Frank Owens, the ensemble never overrode her ruefully gentle voicings of "Yesterday," "My Love," "Glocca Morra" and the theme song from Goodbye, Mr. Chips. That was one of her last movies in which she co-starred with Peter OToole.
Petula's concert was made more charming by her habit of describing the origin of her selections. This trick brightened her spoofing of English music hall performers and American rock -n- roll femme singers. Two of her brightest pieces of satire were take-offs on a French chanson murdering "Hello, Dolly" and a British opera prima donna who suddenly loses her voice.
Miss Clark made a comment about the mechanization of modern music after delivering nearly 30 songs with enchanting near-perfection.
"I think many young rock vocalists are too one-sided in attitude," she said backstage. "They are not well-rounded entertainers when they fail to communicate their ideas to older people as well as the youthful generation of rebels."