Theater: Nellie McKay Rocks Out; "Ludic Proxy" Confounds Pleasantly

April 14, 2015 5:23 AM

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Nellie McKay celebrated her birthday by kicking off a stand at the New York City cabaret venue du jour 54 Below. She rocked the house -- surely it's the first time 54 Below shook to the sounds of Frank Zappa -- delivering a clutch of 1960s covers ranging from the classic to the obscure. It was protest music delivered with a sly smile and a sincere heart, exactly what McKay has been doing since she burst onto the scene in 2004 with her debut album Get Away From Me. If the evening never quite soared, it's because some of the songs she chose to perform were so challenging to sing but uninteresting melodically, an unfortunate combination. They were delivered with verve, but a vocal showcase it wasn't.

Ten of the tunes came from McKay's new album My Weekly Reader, which delights in reminding us of the Occupy vibe that dominated that era, though in the 1960s people still believed they could change the world. ("We can!" Nellie might chime in.) Co-produced with sonic sophistication by Geoff Emerick, ...

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