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CONCERT REVIEW: Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler ...

Pink Martini Plays a Show Fit for Dancin... at the Somerville Theatre

By Katherine Ingle

Pink Martini

Somerville Theatre

Somerville, MA 02144

Feb. 22, 2006

Being from the state of Oregon, anything that has the words “wild salmon,” “hazelnut,” or “Thomas Lauderdale” makes my heart skip a beat. Last Wednesday night it probably stopped for a good two hours during a live performance of the group Pink Martini at the Somerville Theatre.

It was more of a homecoming for the two leaders of the band, Lauderdale on the piano and China Forbes doing vocals. Forbes was born here in Cambridge, and both graduated cum laude from Harvard. They now live in Portland, Oregon, and their band is famous around the world for its international collection of music; their new album “Hang On Little Tomato” alone features songs in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, and Croatian. Together with a stellar ensemble of ten other musicians, they create and revive music that makes you want to jump out of your seat and start dancing.

Pink Martini opened the night with the crescendo of “Bolero.” The violin was an interesting replacement for the cello featured on the CD (Sympatique), and the trumpet notes sounded smooth, yet clear and staccato. I was sitting near the front of the balcony of a sold-out house, but even from my vantage point I could see the audience of preschoolers to grandparents swaying with the music.

The show continued with many of my old favorites, including one of the group’s most famous songs, “Sympatique.” I think the song was written for procrastinators everywhere: Je ne veux pas travailler. Je ne veux pas d jeuner. Je veux seulement oublier, et puis je fume. (Translation: I don’t want to work. I don’t want to eat lunch. I just want to forget, and then I smoke). Sometimes before a song, they gave a short history: the title song from the CD “Hang on Little Tomato” is based off a 1964 Hunt Ketchup commercial, and the lullaby “Clementine” from the same CD is written for Forbes’s niece, who was apparently conceived on Brattle St. For songs in other languages, they provided short translations.

Many songs were either from old albums or yet to be released, and the performance whetted the audience’s appetite for the soon-to-come third CD. “Eugene, does any of this ring a bell?,” a song in Portuguese about singing and dancing, transported me to a sandy beach with a gentle sun. Band features included a trumpet solo that made “Flight of the Bumblebees” sound like a warm-up from Suzuki, Book 2, but as always, Lauderdale was the highlight of the group, the anchor at the piano with his contagious energy.

After a prolonged standing ovation, the encore provided the poignant moment of the night: a German song about a soldier and his radio. The soldier is out on the battlefield with only a radio to connect him with his homeland, and the abrupt end of the song makes it obvious what happens.

After the second standing ovation, the house lights came on, and I was sadly hit with the realization that I had work to do. Riding home on the T, I held onto the t-shirt I bought: “Discover Oregon — with Pink Martini,” and sang to myself, “Je ne veux pas travailler …”