Gabe Kahane, who's appeared in these pages before, is used to playing rooms like Rockwood or LPR, where you can get a drink and stand among the barstools. So, it was something of a adjustment to see him onstage Wednesday night at the Allen Room, with it's dramatic stage lighting and jaw-dropping backdrop of Central Park South. Gabe was appearing as part of Lincoln Center's American Songbook: the far-reaching series that's hosted everyone from Leslie Uggams to Rufus Wainwright this season. And, he admitted to some awkwardness in making the transition: agonizing over what to wear, expressing uncertainty over his stage banter, etc.
But, with influences ranging from fin de siecle Vienna to American musical theater and indie rock, I can't think of anyone more deserving of this stage. (More so, at least, than a certain band who played here a few weeks ago.) He had a big ensemble along for the ride (including guitarist/composer Rob Moose, who duetted with Gabe on several songs), adding an emphatic exclamation point to the evening. Gabe himself jumped from piano, to Wurlitzer, to banjo to guitar, and back again, occasionally finding himself in front of the wrong instrument.
Gabe performed a mix of old familiars - including several selections from Craigslistlieder - and ambitious new works, such as a setting of Robert Lowell's For the Union Dead (see Glory) that sounded like some kind of Appalachian symphony, leaving the crowd in riveted silence. It was all blazing chops and serious vocal prowess.
At one point, Gabe let on that he just signed a lease for a new apartment in Ditmas Park. "You'd think I'd want to move closer to Manhattan," he cracked, no doubt knowing there are more than a few long train rides back to midtown in his future. (More pics on the Fan Page.)