Paula West is better than ever 

Who is Paula West going to cover next — Kurt Cobain? George Clinton? Prince? Enya?

She could, and she’d be good.

And it wouldn’t come as a total surprise from the sultry, inimitable San Francisco jazz-cabaret singer known for her eclectic taste in song selection.

In concert Wednesday on the second night of her annual residency at the Plush Room, West was only half-joking when she admitted she had attention deficit disorder when it comes to music.

She doesn’t often dip into rock, but her version of Bob Dylan’s "Like a Rolling Stone" was nothing short of revelatory, matched by pianist George Mesterhazy’s lyrical, keyboard-heavy arrangement.

Mesterhazy, bassist Vincente Archer and drummer Tony Reedus provided bouncy accompaniment on Hank Williams’ "Honky Tonkin’," another choice that might seem unusual in a cabaret setting — not with West, though.

West exploited Eden Ahbez’s "Nature Boy" (made famous by Nat King Cole) to its full Eastern influence; a few tunes later, she popped up with a swinging "Loch Lomond," a traditional Celtic tune everyone knows: "You take the high road, I’ll take the low road. …"

Not every song was an oddity. West, a Cole Porter fan, gorgeously jammed in every last lyric of the tongue-twister "Can-Can," then slowed things down with the bluesy "Midnight Sun," a tune by Sunny Burke, Johnny Mercer and Lionel Hampton best known as an instrumental by Hampton.

Rodgers and Hart were represented by "Isn’t it Romantic" and a killer, all-encompassing version of "Bewiched, Bothered and Bewildered" that spanned a rainbow of emotions. If the second tune of a set could be called a show-stopper, "Bewitched" was it.

She encored with Oscar Brown’s "The Snake," one of the few tunes she’s been known to repeat, one with a punch line that’s funny every time.

It was a nice counterpoint to the set’s opener, Hadda Brooks’ "Any Time, Any Place, Any Where" — for that’s how West’s fans feel about hearing her sing.

Paula West ***½

Where: Empire Plush Room, York Hotel, 940 Sutter St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. most Wednesdays through Saturdays; 7 p.m. most Sundays; closes March 4

Tickets: $35 to $40

Contact: (866) 468-3399 or

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Leslie Katz

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