“We must seem very exotic,” said retro pop singer Max Raabe of his and Palast Orchester’s performance at Carnegie Hall last night. “The audiences in America have discovered that we have humor, despite being German.” He delivered the line with the same dry, dry, dry—did we mention dry?—wit as the one-liners he offered between songs. Last night he sang a selection of classic German 1920s pop songs—”It’s…in German,” he wryly warned the audience—in addition to stateside favorites from Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.
Despite the deadpan—or perhaps because of it—Raabe has a knack for filling concert halls. Only visiting New York every couple of years, there was something refreshing about his soigné performance, which recalled a Weimar-era German cabaret. He doesn’t move excessively around the stage, he doesn’t have backup dancers, and he certainly doesn’t use auto-tune. Even his coattails are made in the 1920s style by a custom tailor in Berlin. Keeping the production streamlined helps the music shine through. “For two hours, we take the audience away from reality, which is what this music was made for,” Raabe told Style.com. “It is unpolitical music, written to entertain an audience.”
When Julianna Margulies heard Raabe was coming to Carnegie Hall, she insisted on throwing an after-party at the Viceroy’s newly opened Kingside restaurant just a few doors down. “I can’t believe it, but I’m officially a groupie! I never thought I would be one, but when I heard Max’s voice…” Margulies isn’t the only fan: Alan Cumming, Christine Baranski, and Joshua Bell all turned out to toast Raabe. As Amy Fine Collins put it, “Max’s perfectionism and discipline is just everything.”