"I've never done a show this stupid," confessed Steve Allen at Anton's 1201 Club Tuesday night. Stupid? Well, maybe, but as Allen himself might put it, only in the best sense of the word. After all, whether you viewed it as a collection of songs and piano duets punctuated by a string of silly ad-libs and digressions, or the other way around, it all added up to an hour-plus of whimsy, swing and fun.
In the past Allen has worked in a big band setting at the club, but this time around he was joined by pianist Paul Smith, Ella Fitzgerald's longtime accompanist, and a spry rhythm section. The first part of the show was devoted to fielding (and sometimes comically fumbling) requests from the audience, including several pop standards from the '30s and '40s that found Allen and Smith collaborating on sunny, rhythmically engaging arrangements.
The rock era, however, didn't escape Allen's scrutiny. At one point he recited the hopelessly redundant lyrics to "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" with as much dramatic flourish as he could muster, a segment that recalled the time back in the mid-'50s when Allen had Elvis Presley don a tux on his TV show and sing "Hound Dog" to the real thing. There were also moments, albeit brief ones, when Allen played it straight as a singer, delivering a tender "My Romance" and a show-closing medley of his best-known songs.
The engagement runs through Sunday.