It was rumored that Kiki would commit suicide at her and Herb’s final show at Carnegie Hall on Sunday night, but in the end narcissism triumphed, not self-destruction. In an evening entitled Kiki and Herb Will Die for You, the hard-drinking, hard-living lounge act chose the circle (or, as Kiki clarified, “a downward spiral, really”) as the theme—the show must go on and on and on. Kiki’s darkly comic performance was often more retrospective than revue; with listless perseverance, she spent much of the evening looking back on two marriages, the death of her child Coco, her friendships with Billie Holiday and Grace Kelly, and a lost weekend in Mexico with Bill Burroughs.
But it’s Herb’s addled arrangements of the contemporary canon that powerfully convey existential angst—in this pair’s hands, the much-maligned medley charts an erratic, yo-yo course, pushing the audience to the precipice. Then there’s Kiki’s knack for extracting doom from songs as uplifting as “The Rainbow Connection.” Indeed, their edge proved sharpest when they relied less on boozy patter: Kiki’s smug, self-aware rendition of Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized” or the rage that manifests behind her reading glasses when she recites Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” stings more effectively than her bottle of Canadian Club.