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November 13, 2013

One Isn't Like the Other, and That May be the Point
Tanya Holt and Marcus Simeone at the Metropolitan Room

Congenial vocal chemistry is where you find it, and sometimes unlikely couples like Tanya Holt, a sultry pop-soul singer, and Marcus Simeone, a hyper-emotional tenor, who performed together at the Metropolitan Room on Saturday evening, have it. The title of their show, "Quiet Storm," refers to the simmering romantic radio format first popularized in the mid-1970s. Adapted for cabaret, it embraces everything from Motown to "West Side Story" to Anita Baker.

Ms. Holt, a onetime waitress at the Metropolitan Room, is a subtle, confident singer whose smoky, medium-light voice has a playful kittenish edge. Mr. Simeone, who shares enough similar vocal traits for them to blend, is less inhibited. His voice at its high end suggests a more thickly textured echo of Michael Jackson's. His version of the ominous Billie Holiday signature song, "Strange Fruit," about a lynching, conjured starkly horrifying images (which are also vividly evoked in the new film "12 Years a Slave").

As they sang, accompanied by a trio led by the pianist Tracy Stark, their vocal give and take conveyed the comfort of long-term dancing partners familiar with each other's moves and senses of humor. "Strange Fruit" led off a three-song suite that included "Black Butterfly" (sung by Ms. Holt) and Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" (sung by Mr. Simeone), which addresses the civil rights movement. If Mr. Simeone lacked the vocal heft to transform Cooke's classic into a transfixing anthem, the song was infused with enough conviction to justify its inclusion.

Tanya Holt and Marcus Simeone perform again on Dec. 28 and Jan. 26 at the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, Flatiron district; 212-206-0440, metropolitanroom.com.

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Published: November 28, 2013