Kevin Sharp's voice isn't as hardy nor his look as hunky as most of his New Country brethren, and too many of his songs deal with finding romance or losing it. But Sharp's got star quality, part of which is a melodramatic past. Several years ago, when he was on the verge of succumbing to cancer, Sharp was granted what might have been his dying wish: to network with singer-producer David Foster, an industry heavyweight who has worked with Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston. When his cancer went into remission, Sharp's deathbed contact led to a record deal. Then his first CD, 1996's "Measure of a Man," had two No. 1 singles, "She's Sure Taking It Well" and the smash power ballad "Nobody Knows." It's all in the made-for-TV movie.
Tuesday night at the Birchmere, Sharp went to great lengths to please an audience. He put wigs on his shaved head, kissed babies, danced with abandon and unself-consciously threw other people's hits into his set, like Kenny Chesney's "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," Garth Brooks's "Friends in Low Places" and "The Shake" by Neal McCoy, Sharp's brother-in-law. He even persuaded his band to do a Van Halen medley to satisfy one fan's request.
Sharp's concert selections also highlighted the weakness of his own catalogue. As with so many new country releases, Sharp's second and most recent album, 1998's "Love Is" (which Foster produced), is weighed down with '70s-style soft rock that aims low musically and lower lyrically. Worse yet, it's hard to tell "Kiss the Girl" from "We Can Get Through This" from "Scared Like That Again." But nobody at the Birchmere let the monotony get in the way of a good time.
Talk about a force of nature. When Eartha Kitt, sheathed in crushed velvet, leaned over a front-row table and purred at a young man who was quickly turning purple at Blues Alley Tuesday night, you could feel the temperature rise. Then she batted her long eyelashes and a breeze shot through the Georgetown club.
Approaching her 72nd birthday and proud of it, Kitt has developed a cabaret act over the years unlike any other. Of course, that's not surprising since there is no one even remotely like Kitt on the planet. Never acting her age--and heaven knows, she doesn't look it--she often draws on her remarkable life for inspiration, whether poignantly reflecting on her early years in Paris or, as is more often the case, playing up her persona as a woman who loves the good life.
Right off, she put men with "champagne tastes and beer bottle pockets" on notice; Madonna could take some tips from this material girl. Supported by a fine trio, Kitt also reprised some of her hits, including "C'est Si Bon," though nothing delighted the audience more than the disco hit "I Will Survive," which Kitt turned into a highly personal anthem of pride and perseverance.
At the end of the show, when the entire audience was on its feet, Kitt personally thanked each slack-jawed patron who had been on the receiving end of her flirtations and serenades. Clearly, the pleasure was all theirs. The engagement runs through Sunday.