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Eder Comes Wrapped in Garlands


"Do you know me?" singer Linda Eder asked a sold-out audience after it gave her an enthusiastic hoot-and-holler ovation for her first number Thursday at Founders Hall in the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Apparently so.

You might have thought it was Streisand on stage by the response. And indeed, Eder, who was last seen at the center in 1995 in the musical "Jekyll & Hyde," has heard more than a few Streisand comparisons during her career. Her tone, strength and easy stage manner all invite the Babs comparisons.

Eder has something that Streisand doesn't, though: a body of work that centers on her relationship with "Jekyll & Hyde" composer Frank Wildhom, whom she married last year. Wildhom, who was in the audience Thursday, was the focus of Eder's performance as she sang a host of numbers he has written, some particularly for her.

Does Wildhom know how lucky he is to have her? Sure, she's pretty and all, but she also brings brilliant light to his music. Her pure tones, dynamic range and ability to carry a melody make his compositions, in the words of a popular commercial hook, all that they can be.

In fact Eder is the kind of singer who makes candy out of the most gooey of lyric. And some lyricists who have worked with Wildhom--most notably Jack Murphy, who collaborated with Eder and Wildhom on Eder's recent Atlantic album "It's Time"--know how to pour on the emotional syrup.

The best measure of Eder's ability, however, came on songs Wildhom didn't write. Backed only by pianist Jeremy Roberts, Eder took "Over the Rainbow" to new heights in the first concert of a sold-out three-night stand. Another Judy Garland-associated song, "The Man Who Got Away," came with an assertive defiance and a bit of Garland's entrancing growl.

Eder presented all her selections in dramatic fashion but without overbearing theatrics. Some songs, including "Over the Rainbow" and Wildhom's "Someone Like You," showcased her silky high range.

Others, including "Bring On the Men" (from "Jekyll & Hyde") and "Man of La Mancha," were delivered in deep, lusty tones and with plenty of swagger.

Though her phrasing on ballads and pop-styled pieces was impeccable, Eder seemed slightly out of step with more exotic rhythms. She never seemed to find her pace on a rhythmic number from a forthcoming Wildhom project called "Havana,' but she immediately redeemed herself with a sultry reading of "Last Tango," from a previous album.

Eder's eight-piece band gave her a variety of instrumental configurations to work in. Though she had no problem matching the octet's volume, the sheer weight of the arrangements, especially when all three horns were in action, sometimes obscured her voice, making a mystery of the words she sang (not always a bad thing).

Best were numbers that featured sparer accompaniment, arrangements that paired her with guitar or piano or a single horn and rhythm section. Then her overwhelmingly seductive powers were plain. The very few who came to this memorable show not knowing Linda Eder will now most likely never forget her.

* Linda Eder appears tonight at Founders Hall, Orange County performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. 7:30 p.m. Sold out. (714) 556-2787.

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