Whenever there’s a capital-D diva in town, I’m excited. While some tend to have a generational appeal, others are known, by elder-gays and baby-gays alike, by just their first names, and a first-name-only diva is jetting into town on Oct 27. A certified EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner), style icon, tabloid staple and star’s star, Liza Minnelli is bringing her Confessions tour to Roy Thompson Hall. Her most recent CD, also called Confessions, is a lovely affair: a jazz combo, sometimes just piano, lends just the right touch of sexiness to the throaty and intimate vocals.
My confession: I have more respect for Liza than I do for just about anyone else in the business. I’m not alone in that; Lady Gaga recently name-dropped her in concert, Madonna made headlines in the ’90s when she bought out entire rows of seats for a Liza show, and Will Ferrell freely admitted he didn’t stand a chance in his 2009 Tony category against her.
Liza’s cameo was also the most talked about scene in Sex and the City 2.
Remakes of Liza movies flop (the DVD for Russell Brand’s Arthur makes a better coffee coaster than it does a movie), and she has worked with the best of the best: Queen, Bob Fosse, Scorsese, Sinatra, Sondheim and (ahem) the Muppets.
A Toronto date is particularly special, remembering her connection to the city. Other divas tend to arrive fully formed, whereas Toronto has seen her grow from an awkward teen to nightclub attraction to film star. In addition to playing many mid-size and large venues over the years, from time to time she has popped up unannounced in small jazz clubs.
Now, the Liza of 2011 doesn’t necessarily move with the same speed as the Liza who burned up the Imperial Room dancefloor in the ’70s, so don’t expect her to be out clubbing, but do keep an eye open.
Many people have tried to dissect what it means to be a gay icon, particularly in an age when courting the gay community is seen as a marketing strategy instead of an organic process. For some, Liza Minnelli is the ultimate gay icon, a holy vision swathed in sequins and heartbreak.
I don’t buy into the idea that we flock to tragic women or shiny things because we’re gay; I like to think we simply appreciate good things. Divas aren’t divas because only gay folk like them; they’re people who’ve sustained a run at the top of their profession, appealing to all walks of life.
I love Liza because she can sing the fuck out of a song. Take away the mile-long lashes and couture, the legendary family and tabloids, and you’re left with a voice that can do jazz, swing, pop, disco, rock, blues, belting, crooning, in English or French, with a dance break, thank you very much.
It’s actually the new material I’m looking forward to most. Let everyone else surround themselves with circuses that mask a lack of talent — all this lady needs is a piano and a spotlight to inspire ovations. I’ll see you at the show.