A compelling and emotional two-hour performance wrought with laughter and tears, Broadway singer Linda Eder’s matinee concert Sunday at the CSUN Performing Arts Center earned her three standing ovations from a sellout crowd of 500.
Eder, a well-known singer and actress of the musical theater genre, made her debut on Broadway in the 1990s as Lucy in the gothic “Jekell ‘ Hyde,” for which she received a Theatre World Award for Best Broadway Debut. Eder has also received tremendous critical acclaim for her seven solo albums, including “Gold,” “Broadway My Way,” and “Storybook,” as well as for her 2002-03 “Gold” concert tour.
Startlingly clear and rare in its power, Eder’s three-octave voice ranges interchangeably between a deep alto and a high soprano, as her superb ability to shift keys in the middle of a song, or even in the middle of a long-held note, displays unmatchable talent.
During Sunday’s performance, the emotional conviction with which she performed carried the audience smoothly between alternating emotional extremes. Talented in both her vocal and performing abilities, Eder added a theatrical touch to each piece, and consistently revealed a genuine passion for the story behind each lyric.
From a lover’s expression of “I want to see your face in every kind of light,” in “What Are You Doing For The Rest of Your Life?” to a mother’s proclamation that “I would teach you all the things I never learned; I would help you cross the bridges I burned; If I knew, I’d try to change the world I brought you to,” in “If I Could,” Eder, whether unintentionally or theatrically, often fought back tears.
Eder prefaced her numbers with an explanation as to why she had chosen each particular piece, consistently infusing humor and storytelling techniques to engage the audience and reveal both personal and universal significance behind each song.
Through the strikingly different characters she portrayed in each song and the messages each lyric embodied, Eder touched upon universal themes in many of her pieces, both original numbers and covers of Broadway and non-Broadway classics.
From a woman who sadly reflects that the best time of her life has passed into memories as she remembers “Vienna,” to the embodiment of 1800s French sculptor Camille Claudel in “Gold,” a song that examines the value of each human’s impact in a complex world, Eder breathed enthusiasm, whether fun, resolute, or pensive, into each piece.
Her seven-piece band, led by music director Jeremy Roberts, also flawlessly delivered melodies of varied styles to accommodate Eder’s combination of very differently toned songs, from the loving “Baby, You’re The One,” to the determined, never-say-die flare of “Man of La Mancha” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade.”
Eder also paid tribute to Judy Garland with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and “The Man That Got Away.” Eder said that when she was 8 years old, she saw Garland on television and was inspired to pursue music.
Eder’s encore piece, “If I Had My Way,” stood out as a contrast between the terror of Sept. 11, 2001, and an idealistic longing for a better-hearted world. Although the lyrics and song were composed before Sept. 11, its words encapsulated the spirit of the day’s lessons.
“If you believe what they tell you on the 24-hour news channels, the world is going to hell in a hand-basket,” Eder said before performing this number. “But despite what they say, the good in the world still far outnumbers the bad.”
Despite her success, Eder remains refreshingly humble in her performance style, pointing out her own flaws, such as forgetting the lyrics to one song during Saturday’s show, as well as stepping back during the music-only portions of various numbers to let the audience’s attention fall on the band.
Though not many students or younger fans were present during the show, those who seek emotional fulfillment through music might appreciate Eder’s stimulating performance capacity and ability to transition a crowd smoothly between feelings. Her songs capture the humanistic struggle to search for meaning in life, reach for that meaning, and discover beauty in life’s complexity.
Audience-member Gary Abrams, who acquired last-minute tickets to the show at 4 a.m. Sunday, while surfing the web, said he was seeing Eder in concert for the first time, and appreciated her relaxed style and frequent engaging of the audience through humorous stories.
Following a performance of “Edelweiss,” in which a vocal track featuring background singers was used, Eder poked fun at the Ashlee Simpson “Saturday Night Live” fiasco by playing the opening track to Simpson’s “Pieces of Me,” and humorously singing the first few bars.
Eder will return to Los Angeles in December, when she will appear at the Wilshire Theatre. She is also working to bring the story of Camille Claudel, a French sculptor who defied social norms to pursue her craft in a male-dominated field, to the stage as a Broadway musical.