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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisIn America, the name Kuh Ledesma might not exactly jump off the page, but in the Philippines, she's practically royalty. That's because the multi-platinum diva's seamlessly blended pop, soul and jazz for 30 years across 300 concerts, winning most of the country's most prized awards in the process. Add in a series of international films, the formation of her own production company, various theatre appearances, plus the founding of two alternative music venues in her homeland, and the veteran's almost as famous for her entrepreneurial endeavors as her singing.
These days, she's unfurling her divadome on the road, taking along a variety of duet partners to belt out some of the pop world's most familiar cuts, seeming like a cross between a professional version of "American Idol" with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band. Aside from Ledesma, this particular line-up included Stephen Bishop, John Ford Coley, and David Pomeranz, whose names are better recognized by careful credit readers than the general public, but in the case of say the latter, have contributed to projects by Bette Midler, Freddie Mercury, Richie Sambora and event Missy Elliott, totaling 35 million cumulative album sales.
Though the spotlight shined the brightest on Ledesma at the Las Vegas-like Venue at Horseshoe Casino, it was the songs themselves that made the majority of the evening work. Her initial set featured a mixture of jazzy originals and colorful covers, ranging from booming ballads like The Stylistics' "Betcha By Golly, Wow" and Elton John's "Your Song" to Robert Flack's silky "Killing Me Softly," all of which she nailed with note for note perfection.
Unfortunately the duet portions of the evening weren't as strong, either coming across as cheesy and melodramatic or suffering from the limited ranges of her male counterparts. Even so, Ledesma managed to elevate Bishop's Oscar-nominated "Separate Lives," which evoked the grandeur of the Phil Collins/Marilyn Martin version thanks its passionate lyrics, but skipped out on the dated production in favor of an acoustic rendition.
By the end of the two hour performance, Ledesma established herself as a bona-fide star who crossed confidence with vocal capability. It was those qualities, coupled with her elegant costume changes, that could put her right alongside America's most famous (and often times infamous) divas should she ever decide to spend more time on these shores.
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