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Rousing Sinatra salute delights
Friday, 07 February 2014 14:41
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Baby, it’s cold outside, but it was comfortably warm inside — and standing-room only — at Isis Restaurant and Music Hall in West Asheville on Jan. 19 for a  rousing tribute show, “Frank Sinatra: The Capitol Years.”

The show saluted arguably the best-ever male pop singer in world history during what is widely regarded as his era of best vocal performances — on Capitol Records from 1953 to 1961.

Singer-actor Timothy O’Keefe, backed by Russ Wilson and his 17-piece big band, gave a two-hour 20-minute show, split by a 30-minute intermission. Among the highlights were O’Keefe’s lively, heartfelt renditions of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Come Fly With Me,” “Night and Day,” “Luck Be a Lady” and “Witchcraft.”

More than 250 people attended the show, according to Isis Manager Scott Woodie. 

Perhaps nervous at the debut of his concert, which he was having videotaped, O’Keefe tripped over the lyrics at the beginning of three songs, each of which he promptly asked the band to do restarts. These included “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “All of Me” and “My Way.”

On the bright side, O’Keefe, likely buoyed by his acting experience, appeared to be nonplussed by the false starts, refusing to let the snafus bother him.

In the first set of the show, O’Keefe had difficulties in obtaining a bottle of water and then, as a tall man in a suit, having to bend over in front of the audience to get it from the stage floor. It would have been ideal to have the bottled water awaiting him on a table.

On several occasions, O’Keefe seemed out of synch with Wilson and his band, as O’Keefe variously remarked — good-naturedly — to Wilson, “Whenever you’re ready, Russ....”

Also, at times, O’Keefe rifled through his show notes on a lectern, and occasionally could not find the references he was looking for — and winged it, resulting — at least once —- in his starting to sing the same song twice.

The aforementioned flaws in the otherwise highly entertaining performance, however, were minor, and upon finishing with Sinatra’s favorite closer, “My Way,” O’Keefe and Wilson’s band received a standing ovation from the large contingent of the crowd that stayed to the end of the lengthy show. 

Between singing Sinatra hits, O’Keefe told interesting details of Sinatra’s life, with a focus on “Old Blue Eyes’” comeback from his collapse in popularity with Columbia Records to his self-reinvention as the embodiment of the hipster/swinger era. However, O’Keefe may have gone a tad overboard on Sinatra trivia, at the expense of the show’s pace.

 O’Keefe, who relocated to Western North Carolina about eight years ago, was a regular on the soap operas “The Young and Restless” and “Days of Our Lives.” He also appeared in such shows as “Battlestar Galactica,” “Fantasy Island” and “Quincy.” However, O’Keefe now has a CD with the same title as the show, “Frank Sinatra: The Capitol Years,” and is planning to perform the same show with Wilson and his big band at Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville this summer. 

Wilson, who came on stage first, welcomed everyone 

and noted that he had a torn meniscus in his left knee and therefore would be sitting on a stool, instead of standing, as he directed the band.

Wilson also said he and his band would be playing six shows at Isis in 2014, noting that his big band “finally has found a home for our music.” Besides the Sinatra salute, Wilson said his band would present tributes to Benny Goodman, Bob Willis and the Texas Playboys, and others.

Upon being introduced by Wilson as “a marvelous singer and a fine gentleman,” O’Keefe, clad in a black vested suit and a white shirt, bounded onto the stage and launched into “The Lady Is a Tramp.”

He finished the song and following the crowd’s applause, O’Keefe said, “Hello, Asheville! Hey, this is really a neat place. I like it up here... This is a very special show I’ve been working on for a long time....”




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