(Crazy Coqs. 15th June 2015. Review by Peter Vacher)
Kai Hoffman is a “gal who cain’t say no”. To retro, that is. In looks she’s a modified Marilyn, blonde and sassy. In dress and style too. More to the point, it’s the music of r&b’s mid-20th century heyday that turns her on. And us, I’m bound to say after this vibrant performance. No wonder she bills herself as the ‘Hot, Rockin’ Diva’.
Find me another singer who references everyone from Patti Page to Annisteen Allen and Ruth Brown, by way of Ray Charles and Shirley Bassey and then ends her performance with a slow, reflective version of ‘There’s No Business like Show Business’, before bouncing back with Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Hound Dog’ as her crowd-pleasing encore.
Hoffman is from the States, Cape Cod to be exact and best known in metropolitan circles for her affiliation to the swing dance movement. Here, in this classy locale, with just pianist Liam Dunachie for accompaniment, she was the show and by golly, she worked hard to engage this audience, full-on and exuberant. Hearing her emote the time-honoured lyrics of ‘TV Is the Thing This Year’, her on-stage presentation suggestive yet self-deprecating, was to recall an era when blues songs told their own stories, this carried forward in Allen’s ’Lies, Lies, Lies’ with its indictment of men and their many shortcomings. Then, in this well-paced act, Hoffman and Dunachie turned on the charm with Anthony Newley’s ‘Pure Imagination’, this taken slow as Hoffman throttled down and let the lyrics to breathe.
She has a nice line in patter – it could be tighter – and loves to work the room, moving from table to table, engaging audience members who seemed to lap up the closeness. She’ll get you clapping, responding on cue and clearly relished taking their applause. What’s even more to the point, she has in Dunachie a pianist of exceptional versatility, responsive to her every move and able to switch from rumbustious New Orleans style r&b to solid blues and rock ’n’ roll before calming down for something quietly lyrical, all with consummate ease.
There was a line in one of these songs that said it all, ‘What I’ve Got I Like to Flaunt’. And so she did. Kai and Liam, quite a pair and quite an act.