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Big voice: Linda Ronstadt

It Felt Like Home
By Shawn Stone

Linda Ronstadt

Proctor’s Theatre, June 5

Linda Ronstadt may have been out of sight (and missing from the charts) for the last few years, but she’s sure not forgotten. The huge crowd at Proctor’s on Monday night attested to that. Part of it is the legacy of so many hits in a career marked by more than a couple of interesting musical reinventions and—let’s face it—her status in the 1970s as one of the preeminent female sex symbols in pop music. (Asylum Records even dressed her as a roller girl on one cover.)

What she is best remembered for, however, is her strong, clear voice. And, as a testament to (maybe) good genes and (certainly) taking care of her instrument, she still has it. Or, as I wrote in my notes after she opened with “What’s New”: “Jesus God—Her voice is amazing.”

Ronstadt divided the show, more or less, into two parts. First, a selection of the standards she recorded with Nelson Riddle in the 1980s; then, her rock hits.

She not only can hit all the notes in “What’s New,” Ronstadt proved that she now owns the song much in the way that Sinatra owned “Angel Eyes” or “One for My Baby.” She wrings every bit of heartache out of the lyric, without steamrolling through its expression of tender regret. She was much more at home with the other standards, too, than she seemed 20 years ago. “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” was sexually beguiling; “Someone to Watch Over Me” was plaintive; and “Little Girl Blue” was rueful. Of course, she couldn’t resist blowing out the back wall with her powerful wail a couple of times, though she probably should have.

The rock & roll portion of the show was shorter, but she did many of her best-known hits, including “Ooh, Baby Baby,” “Somewhere Out There” and a terrific “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.” Also memorable were Jimmy Webb’s “Adios” and Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home.”

Ronstadt lived up to her reputation as being a regular “chatty Cathy” between songs. Her dedication of “Blue Bayou” to Michael Moore got her thrown out of a Las Vegas casino a couple of years ago, but her rededication of the same song to George W. Bush, as a sort of grim acknowledgement of how the Bushies botched Katrina, drew only applause in Schenectady. She joked about her first contact with legendary ar ranger Nelson Riddle (he had no idea who she was); dedicated “Straighten Up and Fly Right” to the Enron crooks (“I never thought they’d get those guys in jail”); and compared Rhinebeck, where she stayed the night before the show, to Duckberg—you know, where Donald and Daisy and Scrooge McDuck lived in the Donald Duck comic books.

Duckberg? It was a compliment, and led to knowing digs at suburban development, New York master builder Robert Moses and her view that “the internal combustion engine only made life better for horses.”

Clearly, Ronstadt is, to put it mildly, no dummy. And how she can sing.

Comedienne Marion Grodin—yup, Charles’ daughter—opened and was very warmly received. (We like our neurotic Jewish comics around these parts.) She was funny, and it was doubly entertaining because she translated what is probably a potty-mouthed standup routine into something suitable for an all-ages show. After all, aren’t “vagina” and “penis” just as humorous as their filthier nicknames?

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