Tina Schlieske Swings on Through the Dakota
AN EVENING OF TORCH AND SWING
VENUE: DAKOTA JAZZ CLUB
AUGUST 17, 2018
Concert review by: Chad Werner
Photos by: Patrick Dunn
You know Tina Schlieske. She cut her teeth as the “Tina” in Tina and the B Sides in the 90s, but has stretched out as solo artist, as well as fronting Lola and the Red Family Band (formerly Lola and the Red Hots), Tina Schlieske and the Graceland Exiles, and her upcoming punk rocking Genital Panic.
The woman lives and breathes music, so her “Evening of Torch and Swing” at the Dakota last Friday should be no surprise. Best known as a raspy bluesy Americana belter in the mode of Janis Joplin, Schlieske paid tribute to luminaries such as Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone complete with a capable jazz band in tow.
Decked out in a full tuxedo, Schlieske strode on stage looking cooler than should be allowed by law. Part late 60s/early 70s variety show host, part crooner with a drink in hand, Schlieske’s bow tie was as big as her voice, and love for this music.
Opening with “I’m Beginning To See The Light”, made famous by Ella Fitzgerald, Schlieske was all swinging finger snaps, and shuffling feet.
The singer did mention that “the theme of the night is Frank Sinatra,” so sliding into his version of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” was the perfect choice. Schlieske’s smooth, sexy vocals bookended a rolling piano solo for an altogether happening performance.
“I’ve never felt more like a lady wearing a tuxedo singing jazz.” Schlieske quipped, “We’re gonna be real close.”
She and band took a detour into Nina Simone territory before returning to the Chairman of the Board with the classic, “Come Fly With Me”; which featured an intense, not very Sinatra ending.
“I forgot which band I was in… B Side ending!” Ms. Schlieske joked.
The singer took a stool, and her drink, while the band took turns at tasteful soloing. Brian Ziemniak
knew just how to tickle the ivories, Cody McKinney and Gregg Schutte kept the rhythm on bass and drums (respectively), while Jake Baldwin wrapped everything in his skilled trumpet playing.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this is a real jazz band.” Schlieske said to cheers from the audience. “And singer,” someone shouted, to which she replied, “Why, thank you!”
Schlieske’s voice confidently crackling with life and emotion, she and the band turned in hushed, almost not there takes on “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me” and “The Good Life”.
The band played Schlieske out for a brief intermission with an almost noir-ish Nina Simone version of “Everything Must Change”.
Upon returning to the stage, the singer and band weren’t ready to swing hard yet; instead turning in a take on Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” that was smooth like a fine whiskey.
“For Once In My Life” picked up the pace, with a mid song tempo shift that suited Schlieske.
“This is as close to rock and roll that we’re gonna get,” Ms. Schlieske introduced “Chauffeur”. True to her words, it was big rhythm, and percussive piano that drove her vocals over the moon.
The singer introduced “Don’t Explain” as the Nina Simone version of a Billie Holiday song, and Schlieske’s vocals sounded like a secret, like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“I was scared to sing this at 50, but at 51 I am less scared.” The singer admitted before ripping into “Fly Me To The Moon” to the delight of the full house.
After the vocal showcase of “Lilac Wine”, Schlieske said, “Let’s sing one for Aretha.”
Their cover of Aretha Franklin’s cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” put the whole evening in perspective. The Queen of Soul is dead, and if you are a music lover, you are in mourning whether you accept it or not. Schlieske’s singing was like a drink, a salve, a promise that music will always sooth the soul. So Schlieske leaned into “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, and we leaned on her. If that isn’t what music is for, then what?
The revelation was perfectly timed, as the show wound to a close. Sinatra’s anthem, “That’s Life”, was introduced by the singer, “This one is about everything. Show up and be the best husband, sister, aunt… You know what, though? You can try again tomorrow.”
“That’s Life” is a belter, and Schlieske was up for the challenge. She shuffled the stage, and delivered the “I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate…” parts almost like a slam poet, or someone winning a rap battle.
The encore of “Come Rain, Come Shine” was great, but the 1-2 punch of the Aretha Franklin tribute and “That’s Life” was the perfect finale to evening that was fun, exhilarating, and ultimately therapeutic. If one didn’t leave the Dakota with a deeper love for the power of music, that wasn’t the fault of Tina Schlieske.
She gave it her all, and the rest is up to us.
I’m Beginning To See The Light
I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Tell It Like It Is
Come Fly With Me
Them There Eyes
Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me
The Good Life
Love Me Or Leave Me
Everything Must Change
For Once In My Life
Hallelujah I Love Her So
Fly Me To The Moon
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Come Rain, Come Shine
The Crowd And What They Said: Lots of folks who appear to have been with Tina since the early 90s, and possibly their parents. When she talked about turning 50, someone hilariously gasped, “NO!”
Thoughts On The Way Out: I had forgotten how nice it is to see a show, and smell red beans and rice and steamed mussels instead of stale beer. Dakota FTW!