Concert Review: Nellie McKay At The Deer Head Inn

By  on Apr 14, 2015

Nellie McKay is one of those artists you’ll be glad you saw on the way up (like catching Bruce Springsteen in a small club, which I happened to do in 1973). This is because McKay’s star is burning brightly these days and she is going to be very big.

McKay (pronounced mick-kai) detonated her vocal dynamite on Sunday evening at the Deer Head Inn, a Delaware Water Gap, Pa. institution that happens to be the oldest continuously running jazz club in the U.S. It was the eve of her week-long residency at the 54 Below supper club in Manhattan’s Theater District, just off Broadway and a few blocks from Carnegie Hall, two venues where she no doubt will be a headliner some day.

Beyond being a terrific singer (and a damned good pianist and ukelele player), a big part of what makes McKay so special is the consciousness raising message she brings to the stage while stopping thisshort of being drop-dead funny. There is not another contemporary artist, let alone one so at home with jazz, rock, pop and torchlight standards, who so lethally combines the serious and the hilarious. Neither has undercut the other whenever we have seen her high-wire act over the years, and the balance between the two poles was pitch perfect at the Deer Head even when, in one between-songs monologue, she took off on rapacious developers who have despoiled her native Poconos, turning the once lovely region into one big waterpark and strip mall.

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