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John Yap

Review: RICHARD SHELTON, SINATRA:RAW

Richard Shelton Richard Shelton has been finessing his tribute to Frank Sinatra and his songs for the past few years from his home in LA (born and raised in Wolverhampton). And now he has brought an expanded version of his cabaret concert SINATRA:RAW to Wilton’s Music Hall, London after the performances at the Edinburgh Festival and the Crazy Coqs in London.

Such tribute cabaret concerts stand or fall on the music and subject matter. The myriad of hits in the Sinatra discography ensures that the music is guaranteed to please. However, Sinatra’s very rich and colourful life is very difficult to condense in what is in effect a 65 minutes concert of mainly songs. Shelton concentrates on just two aspects of Sinatra’s life. One is Sinatra’s obsessive, turbulent and destructive relationship with Ava Gardner and the other is with his lifelong campaign for the racial equality. There is passing mention of the Rat Pack, the Kennedys, Peter Lawford and his recording projects. The whole evening is about 90 minutes long with the remaining time allocated to the audience to request Sinatra’s songs for Shelton to sing. This part of the concert is actually very entertaining and enjoyable because of Sinatra’s biggest hits that are not performed in the main concert are inevitably requested.

The piece is set in Palm Springs in 1971 where Sinatra gave an intimate cabaret to his close and celebrity friends to prepare for his “Farewell” concert in LA. It is to Shelton’s credit that he does not try to imitate Sinatra’s singing style and voice because no one can sing or speak like Frank Sinatra. Shelton has a good strong voice and he is able to sing all the songs very nicely, in his own way. His delivery of the narration occasionally tends to slip into the “stand up comedy” mode but he connected with the audience. 

What is surprising is that Shelton restricted the selection of the songs in the main concert to those from the ‘40s and ‘50s. Although they are all great songs, Sinatra recorded some of his biggest hits post ‘60’s. The younger members of the audience will most likely not recognise quite a lot of the songs unless they are ardent fans of Sinatra’s recorded legacy. The songs list includes All or Nothing at All (1939), I’ve Got You Under My Skin (1946), I’m a Fool to Want You (1951), One for my Baby (1947) and Angel Eyes (1958). At the audiences request, on the night I saw it, we were also treated to bigger hits like Strangers in the Night, New York, New York, The Summer Wind, My Kind of Town and The Lady is a Tramp with My Way suitably ending the evening.

If you like listening to some great songs, nicely sung and delivered and have a passing interest in Frank Sinatra, you will enjoy this cabaret concert.