Holly Near/Flirtations | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Holly Near/Flirtations

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In her 1990 autobiography Fire in the Rain...Singer in the Storm, women's-music pioneer Holly Near recalls that a record exec once told her she'd never make it as a pop star because her voice lacked an "element of submission." Damn straight (so to speak); Near, whose rendition of "We Are a Gentle, Angry People" was the anthem of 70s gay and lesbian activism, wields a vibrant and vigorous soprano--nobody grabs a song by the lapels and shakes as much life out of it as she does. Her choice of material for this holiday-themed program includes her own folk/pop originals, with their themes of social concern and personal introspection, as well as standards by Harold Arlen, Dorothy Fields, and the Gershwins. Also on the bill are the Flirtations, a gay a cappella quartet who specialize in street-corner doo-wop of impressive complexity and precision. Their supertight harmonizing is equally well suited to campy pop turns like "Johnny Angel" and "Mr. Sandman" ("Give him a lonely heart like Pagliacci / But not as closeted as Liberace") and urgently beautiful songs of love and defiance for the age of AIDS--classics like "My Buddy" and "I'll Be Seeing You" as well as contemporary numbers such as Labi Siffre's "Something Inside So Strong" and Flirts founder Michael Callen's "Living in Wartime." Blending political engagement and musical eclecticism, this concert promises to be a stirring, joyous, and intensely emotional evening. Saturday, 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 357-3211, 472-0449, or 559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Irene Young.

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