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POP MUSIC : Steve & Eydie in the Groove at Universal

November 30, 1987|PAUL GREIN

Some Las Vegas performers like to bowl you over. They huff and puff, they razzle and dazzle, they sweat and slave to earn what is--to them--the ultimate accolade: "The Hardest-Working Man (or Woman) in Show Business."

Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, who headlined the Universal Amphitheatre over the weekend, don't take themselves that seriously. The husband-and-wife team covered a lot of ground in their Friday night show--from old standards to recent Broadway songs, from a country toe-tapper to a series of songs in Spanish--but never with the self-conscious or self-congratulatory attitude that mars the performances of their showroom peers.

The couple gave a comfortable, relaxed performance, filled with light, self-deprecating asides. (After Steve finished "New York, New York," Eydie cracked, "Frank is slitting his wrists as we speak.") It's fitting that one of the first songs in the set was a Stephen Sondheim tune called . . . "Old Friends."

Steve and Eydie, who have been singing together since the early '50s, are an example of how (vocal) opposites attract. Steve has a warm, understated style, while Eydie's voice is bright and brassy. They blend well together, though she tends to overpower him when they sing together.

She also overpowered the Gershwins' tender ballad, "But Not for Me." Eydie was at her best on the Spanish songs, which were well-suited to her big, dramatic style. Steve, an underrated singer, was impressive even on pedestrian material like "I Am What I Am" from "La Cage Aux Folles." His ripe, velvety voice and smooth, suave manner--though not in vogue in terms of the contemporary pop record market--have a timeless appeal.

The two spiced the show with rat-a-tat-tat humor about a host of current topics, from the stock market crash to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. They closed with a ballad composed by their son, David, who also played piano. The title: "A Perfect Blend."

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