Material: McDonald co-produces this first “Fabaret” show with Leopold Nunan (Food Network). The costumes are a spectacular display of glitter and glamour, ranging from a Marilyn Monroe to a red devil. McDonald emcees parts of the event in both a suit and a kilt, beckoning audience members to dance on stage as well as work the red carpet with co- host Davi Davenport (Davi Davenport Live).
McDonald’s lyrics are emotionally raw. He explains his song “Dear Walter” is about “gay bashing U.K. style,” telling the story about a man named Walter who was afraid to hold hands in an Irish pub. Then there is “Comic Book Hero” of which McDonald explains was written about a lover of 11 years who left him for God. “Lone Correspondent” shows a good use of slant rhymes: “...You talk in tongues, blank mind charades/You’re dry land, I’m water on your grave.” A sincere romanticism is apparent on “Throw Your Weight Around” with its contrite appeal: “...if I use my words to cut you down/ kiss my wicked mouth/If my faith goes south, turn my love around.”
Musicianship: McDonald performs primarily on piano and sometimes on electrified ukulele. The compositions are sparse and kept interesting with unusual but intentional minor key changes. McDonald projects well throughout. The keyboard levels from McDearman (producer of McDonald’s latest album Say Yes) are pretty low in the mix but work to retain focus on McDonald. The cello from Choi is a lovely addition and fills the acoustic bass element of the compositions.
Performance: It was two hours before the scheduled start time for the show and several audience members started complaining and left. However, the wait did build the crowd’s anticipation and the energy of each performance stayed high. McDonald gave, arguably, the most conservative performance of the evening, albeit a riveting one. Almost to negate that assumption, he flashed the audience at his finale.
Summary: McDonald is a storyteller without restraint. Musically the songs have a retro feel that seems to harken back to some of the great ‘70s piano pop. In fact McDonald does reveal, “Lionel Richie is my spirit animal,” explaining that the two shared a meeting where Richie inspired him to keep pursuing his musical endeavors. McDonald has a soulful cover of “Easy” by The Commodores in his repertoire, which encourages audience participation.
The Players: Robbie McDonald, vocals, multi-instrumentalist; Todd McDearman, synth; Hyosun Choi, cellist.