The heartbreakingly brilliant Kurt Elling dazzled spectators at Koerner Hall on Tuesday June 23. His deep, comforting tone soothed weakened, love-struck souls. With every song and story of lost love and romantic turmoil, Elling’s music embraced listeners with the notion that the pains of heartache never truly fade.
The Chicago native felt right at home in our windy city on Tuesday as his passionate vocals echoed across Koerner Hall's beautiful stage.
The American songbook classic "Come Fly with Me" and the rest of an equally engaging setlist captured the Koerner Hall audience from start to finish. Elling's warm and sometimes heartbreaking melodies were only interrupted by interstitial uproars of applause as one number lead to the next.
Elling’s performance featured choice picks from his recent album Passion Word and included refreshing musical improvisations. "April in Paris" was all swing, which perfectly counterbalanced the slow and moving Spanish ballad "Loch Tay Boat Song". Also included was a fun rendition of Jon Hendrick’s "Homecookin’", which Elling noted was created before ‘politically correct’ was a thing. Guitarist John McLean led Elling into a charming rendition of the epic U2 anthem "Where the Streets Have No Name", which took on a clever bluesy feel in place of its usual rush of pop repetition. Of course, it wouldn't be long before a fitting dedication to Frank Sinatra, giving the audience what it really wanted.
The encore featured a momentous two-song set including a jazzy rendition of the James Joyce classic "Dear Heart", followed by the groovy, upbeat "Satisfied".
Elling is as much something to see as he is to hear. Glamourous and poised, he could swing like Sinatra, though he joked Miles Davis might not approve of him as he is clearly a contender for the master of smooth. Elling kept his core audience satiated with his standard magic, but clearly impressed the newcomers in the room with his impressive tonal range and control over the performance, expertly commanding his band members with clear but illusive hand gestures.
Elling's tour takes him to Europe this summer, but if you missed this spectacular show, he is sure to be back in Toronto soon.