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Doing It Her Way 

Wednesday, Jul 18 2007
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A few years ago, we saw Kiki and Herb at Herbst Theater on New Year's Eve in the company of about 900 gay men and a few scattered women (I won't be so crude as to call them fag hags). The crowd was to be expected -- Kiki and Herb are a lounge act played by Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman, with Bond belting out hits as the wasted septuagenarian Kiki and Mellman providing virtuoso piano accompaniment as the gay, Jewish Herb. On the surface, sure, it's total camp. But their shtick transcends that tag, not only for the unique songs they often sing (everything from the Cure and Dan Fogelberg to Wu-Tang Clan and Radiohead) but also for Kiki's priceless monologues about her incredibly fucked-up diva life, delivered in the barely-hanging-on croak of a bottomed-out drunk. When Kiki slowly descended to the floor, one knobby knee at a time, brought down by the night's alcohol intake until she was splayed out and snoozing on the boards, she cemented her status as a legend meant for everyone. She's a formidable lady -- after all, she once "sweated out" cancer with a case of vodka and an electric blanket.

Kiki and Herb have been around a long time (they met at the birth of Jesus), and since they were "rediscovered" at a San Francisco gay bar in the early ´90s, they've steadily built a following, ultimately snaring their largest audiences yet at Carnegie Hall and on Broadway. The current show, Kiki & Herb: Alive From Broadway, which was nominated for a Tony award, comes to S.F. after a run in Boston. According to reviews, the pair continues to dazzle, and the lineup of songs is as priceless as ever, with the usual pop hits sprinkled among stuff like Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," Public Enemy's "Don't Believe the Hype," Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life," Elliott Smith's "King's Crossing," and Mark Eitzel's "Patriot's Heart."

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Michael Leaverton

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