Lutvak at Joe's Pub
By David Finkel, Backstage

At the first of two Joe's Pub shows to plug his new CD, "The Time It Takes," STEVEN LUTVAK demonstrated he's ready to play with the big boys. With the biggest boys -- Billy Joel, Elton John, Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman. Although much of the material he delivered with utmost confidence is familiar, no one's ever heard his suave oeuvre this way. That's because, having signed up arranger and musical director Joseph Baker, he's added colorfully thought-out instrumentation and backup warbling.

The results, which had the feel of something polished to a high sheen, is a set primed for almost any venue, no matter what the tastes of the patrons or how large the capacity. Lutvak has something for everybody, but the beauty part is that none of it has the hollow ring of blunt commercialism. The songs he writes himself, and those he writes with Stephen Schwartz or Carol Hall, seem to have bubbled up, or been torn from within him. Crooning at the mike or the keyboard, Lutvak was alternately sweet, reflective, and cocky.

For years he's scored with his perceptive, self-incriminating "Beware the
Anger of Soft-Spoken Men," and "Rewriting Hisotry" (Schwartz supplied the melody here), but now he's added new material. Hot off the presses is "Museums," in which a man recalls learning about the meaning of paintings from his otherwise distant father. The melting song is a masterpiece and marks a maturity few on today's scene can equal.

Proving the kind of room-worker he is, Lutvak also parlayed a number of technical foul-ups into heavy laughs. The piano bench broke; the mike cord fell. Did it throw the guy, who, incidentally, wore black with a red overshirt and red-accented running shoes? Not by a cabaret mile. He jimmied the annoyances into lyrics. Lutvak has been standing on fame's threshold for some time now. He looks ready to step over big time.

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