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Pop Music Review

Frankie Laine in a Rousing, Musically Appealing Concert

March 04, 1997|DON HECKMAN

Frankie Laine, by his own definition, is "not a crooner . . . but a singer who shouts!" And, at 83, he can still put together a rousing, rhythm-filled performance that makes no concession to his age.

At Cal State Northridge's New Performing Arts Center on Sunday, he sang with a style and substance that underscored his importance as one of the first pre-Presley singers to fully grasp the relevance of black blues and urban swing.

But Laine minimizes the scope of his own abilities when he speaks of being a shouter. True, he brought plenty of energy to such signature classics as "Jezebel" and "Mule Train." But his surprisingly gentle high notes were equally effective on ballad weepers such as "Your Cheatin' Heart," his own "We'll Be Together Again" and the inspirational "I Believe." Perhaps best of all, and rarely acknowledged in Laine's work, he sang with the easy, loose phrasing and imaginative articulation of jazz performers.

None of these details was particularly significant to the overflow crowd, which was far more concerned with calling out for repeats of Laine's many hits.

"We'd be here for 4 1/2 hours if I sang everything you're asking for," he said good-naturedly. And he was right. Despite the lineup of familiar items, he never got to several equally well-known songs.

But what he did sing was done beautifully, a musically appealing performance by a performer who proved, with every note, that age does not have to dim creative skills.

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