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Review and photos by Andy ArgyrakisIf there's any entertainer with nine lives to her name, it's undoubtedly Natalie Cole, who's survived everything from a harrowing hotel fire to drug abuse to an even more recent kidney transplant. And her musical career's been just as resilient over the years, starting off as a soul star in the 1970s, amassing tremendous pop success throughout the '80s, resurrecting in the '90s as a jazz stylist and highlighting all three auras on tour well into the 2000s.
In fully recovered physical shape and clad in a marvelous sleeveless gown, Cole's current tour literally finds the singer with a new lease on life and presenting each note like it's her last. She not only added yet another feather in The Venue at Horseshoe Casino's legends' cap, but conquered the cabaret setting as her extensive orchestra and pair of background singers took the pristine sound system to a new stratosphere.
Despite her majority of headlines as of late having to do with health, the singer is still celebrating a 2009 Grammy win for her latest album Still Unforgettable (Rhino), which is a sequel of sorts to 1991's enormously decorated Unforgettable...With Love. Both collections are a tribute to her late great father Nat King Cole, which features covers sung in standard style blended with the occasional virtual duet between the two relatives.
In concert, Cole pulled off that technological marvel on the obligatory "Unforgettable," with video footage highlighting her father as his voice beamed down from the heavens via previously recorded tracks. And the headliner continued to keep his memory (along with the whole bi-gone era of jazz) alive thanks to sterling renditions of "The Man That Got Away," "Come Rain Or Come Shine," "Smile" and another duet with Dad during "Walkin' My Baby Back Home."
While the set list was top heavy with its emphasis on covers (especially considering the wealth of the younger Cole's solo hits), she did dust off several soul classics while skipping over her dated '80s days. "Inseparable" and "Mr. Melody" were joyfully nostalgic but equally timeless, while "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" and "Our Love" were served up with choir-like fervor thanks to some extra assistance from her backers.
But by the time the songstress got to "I've Got Love On My Mind," she presented such sheer sensuality and soulfulness that no one would've ever guessed she's knocking at the door at 60 or endured all the previous drama. Not only was the performance uplifting from a musical perspective, but also incredibly inspiring just on the human level of Cole overcoming so many obstacles and still being able to stand at the top of her game.
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