Daisy Jopling’s “Who’s Who”

January 31, 2024

The violin is no stranger to the cabaret stage. But most often it is a featured member of the band or a special guest appearance. In Daisy Jopling’s delightful show, Who’s Who, it is front and center and, in fact, more prominent than the vocals. As the title indicates, the focus of the show is the music of the iconic rock group, The Who, one of the triumvirate at the top of the famed “British Invasion” of American record charts in the ’60s.  The choice of material is unusual since the music of The Who founder, Pete Townsend, is rarely done in cabaret.  The records of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones have contributed classic cabaret songs over the years; The Who has always come in a far third, so it is exciting to hear it done so well and so effectively in club surroundings.

Daisy Jopling (Photo: Andrea Peller)

There was a grace and a joyful exuberance in her playing that elevated the familiar songs in the most surprising and satisfying ways.  Sharing her vision of the iconic material were Jeff Miller, dazzling on piano and keyboards, Lavondo Thomas, invaluable on bass, and especially Simon Fishburn on drums, who drove the ingenious arrangements with a fiery echo of the great Keith Moon while adding his own exciting contemporary twist. These brilliantly talented musicians supported and enriched the virtuosity of Jopling on her Antonio Gragnani violin (made in Livorno, Italy in 1778) and a Yamaha electric violin. 

From the very beginning, her ecstatic arrangement and performance of “The Overture from Tommy,” placed her focus, and the audience’s attention, on the composer as a melodist. With minimal inclusion of lyrics, this revelation grew in the follow-up, “Behind Blue Eyes,” in which the mournful wail of the strings transformed the piece by investing its rock & roll glory with a haunted heart.  “Amazing Journey” developed into a wild flight of frenzy tinged with drugged-up rock swagger. The familiar chords of the inevitable “Won’t Get Fooled Again” were heightened by the blazing violin and insistent drums, then grew into a fiery blast of keyboards matching the original, and then a vocal explosion that led to a violin crescendo.  It was a tour de force.  The few times she added vocals were well chosen and she sang with power and assurance.  

Swirling between and around the Townsend songs were some choice originals, the highlight of which was “Prayer,” a nurturing, hopeful melody on violin that cascaded beneath wishes for better times. There was a nod to the legacy of her chosen instrument with the inclusion of what she called “some gypsy fun” with “Csardas” (Vittorio Monti, from 1904); it was so evocative that I could almost see the campfire at her feet and the smoke billowing up to the ceiling. That led to an unbeatable closer of “Baba O’Riley” and an encore of “Pinball Wizard” that left the audience on its feet calling for more.  Obviously, I was not the only one completely thrilled by Daisy Jopling’s Who’s Who.  

P.S. One wish before I end this review.  I noticed in her discography an album by her creative string trio called “Trilogy Plays Ennio Morricone.” Perhaps in the future Daisy Jopling can return to the cabaret stage with a Morricone tribute.  Wish made, fingers crossed.


Presented at Chelsea Table + Stage, 152 W. 26th St., NYC, January 14, 2024.


About the Author

Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”