Liberace at the Hollywood Bowl (The Complete Concert)
Liberace was at the height of his early fame, with a popular syndicated television show and a series of charting albums on Columbia Records, when he came to give a concert at the Hollywood Bowl on September 4, 1954, so Columbia installed microphones and recording equipment and, in 1955, issued two LPs culled from the show, Liberace at the Hollywood Bowl and Hollywood Bowl Encore. As reissue producer Dan Rivard discusses in detail in his liner notes to this version of the material, many edits were made, and some bits were even pasted in from other sources. But this two-CD set presents the whole show as it occurred, all two and a half hours of it. What is apparent right away is that Liberace is at least as much of a personality as he is a pianist, and an eccentric personality at that. His audience, clearly primed for his behavior by his TV show, eats it up, but the 2002 listener may find the performer even more of a novelty act than he was almost 50 years ago. Liberace chats endlessly, spending more than ten minutes, for example, introducing his band and another four-plus minutes talking about the music critics who don't care for him. He plays some classical music, with his familiar flourishes, but is just as likely to dig into "Beer Barrel Polka" or "Tea for Two." He clearly sees himself as something of a comedian, and he gets big laughs for his efforts. Like his persona, his playing can be characterized as indulgent -- virtuosic, but overly concerned with superficial effects. Yet it's hard to think of this as a flaw when it is what he is trying to do deliberately. Liberace charmed and amused audiences for over 30 years, and this album shows how he did it.