Clint Holmes sings songs by Paul Simon the way you’ve never heard them sung before.
They’re part of his remarkable act “This Thing Called Love,” showcasing tunes by Simon and Cole Porter — two great composers comparable in just a few respects: Both are great poets, and both explore love.
Named Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year three times, Holmes is, unbelievably, appearing for the very first time in The City. Lovers of great musical interpretation shouldn’t miss his show, running through Sunday at the new Live at the Rrazz. (Still in a state of preparation and in need of a sign or two, the club in the 1000 Van Ness Ave. building is owned by Robert Kotonly and Rory Paull, who closed the Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko on Dec. 31.)
Not a subtle performer, Holmes is a lounge singer who teases, acts, scats, belts and actually seems to live the songs, and Simon’s dusky, emotionally complex tunes get brilliant makeovers.
While the composer’s own vocals have a casual lilt, Holmes serves up a full-on cabaret treatment. In “I Do It for Your Love,” “Slip Slidin’ Away” and “Have a Good Time,” Holmes shows the messy intersection between passion, commitment and fear.
“Have a Good Time” segues into a wild, dramatic interlude with Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me” and “Just One of Those Things,” sung with fervor by a man who has just cheated on his wife.
Arranged with genius by musical director Jeffrey Neiman, a couple of juxtapositions are particularly clever: Porter’s “Get Out of Town” and Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” and Simon’s “Love,” done in a heartbreaking chanson style, with Porter’s “So in Love.”
At the piano and keyboard, Neiman kicks things off with an instrumental, including a snippet of “Feelin’ Groovy/The 59th Street Bridge Song,” bringing back fond memories of Simon and Garfunkel.
Soon after, Holmes sings it in a medley with Porter’s “It’s De-Lovely,” a rare time in the evening with both composers in sync regarding the sheer joy of love.
Bob Sachs on bass and Jess Gopen on drums round out the band. They sound like a group triple their size on Porter’s “I Concentrate on You,” done with a Latin rhythm, and the bold, jazzy “Night and Day.”
“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” begins with a catchy drum-only accompaniment, and “Love Me Like a Rock” is an all-out gospel number.
After all the ups and downs and ins and outs, Holmes closes with “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Simon’s anthem that speaks to the power of the love for a child and unconditional love.
It’s a touching and fitting finale to a performance by an entertainer who, one hopes, will bring his talent back to San Francisco again — and again.