Lykken entered Manhattan’s Metropolitan Room on Sunday afternoon, February 5th, looking glamorous with full face make- up and decked out in glittery jacket with bare chest. This is not drag, nor is it cabaret style; it is something else all together. Lykken is simply himself —-or, at least, who he presents himself to be on stage. His singing voice often operates in that gender-neutral range, evoking memories of Tallulah Bankhead and Eartha Kitt, but he’s able to adjust this vocal style from Broadway belt to rock and roll growl. He can even croon a standard with intense feeling.
The song list for the show was also unique, covering about a century of music, without the show ever feeling disjointed. Credit for that goes to Lykken as he filters the music through his own view of the world. Sitting on the piano, garbed in a kimono, he sings “Poor Butterfly” simply, with sincerity, so that it never shifts over to camp or crude comedy. On the other hand, his delivery of Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” is raw and brutal, interspersed with bawdy political humor. He shows off spectacular vocal pyrotechnics delivering Amy Winehouse’s “I Heard Love Is Blind”, while Rodgers and Hart’s “You Are Too Beautiful” receives a crooning treatment of considerable delicacy.
The entertainer keeps busy between songs, chatting with the audience, decking his musicians in feather boas, even smoothly dealing with a glitch with the microphone without missing a beat. Lykken is ably assisted by his band: pianist/conductor Yasuhiko Fukuoka, drummer Simon Fishburn and bassist Marco Panascia. He was also joined on stage by the very sexy dancer Kyle Rostan for one number. The entire show shows the deft hand of experienced entertainer Rick Skye. With a performer of such diversity, it will be great fun to see what Billy Lykken comes up with for his next show.