"I guess I've covered this waterfront," Bobby Short told the audience at Charlie's last night, looking back on his appearances at the Howard Theater, the Kennedy Center and "a few White House gigs. But," he added, "this is the first time I've appeared here in a saloon. Some saloon."

Charlie's probably hasn't seen a more elegantly dressed or well-heeled crowd pack the club since it opened eight months ago. Looking resplendent himself in a finely tailored tux, Short scrambled onto the stage, tucked the piano bench beneath him, and quickly gathered the audience into the palm of his hand, where they remained for the duration.

Everything about Short is expensive -- his wide-eyed singing, his grand theatrical gestures, his dramatic, rococo piano style. It's true that his husky baritone occasionally sounds frayed around the edges, and his abrupt tempo shifts are forever keeping his rhythm section up on their toes.

But nothing can explain or blunt the impact Short has on an audience when he warms up to pieces by Porter, Gershwin, Sondheim and the like. All that can be said for sure is that when Short concluded with Yip Harburg's "I Like the Likes of You," the feeling was undeniably mutual.

Short appears at Charlie's through Sunday.