Our Man in New York: A good night - and a guten nacht, too

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FRIENDS FROM Washington DC persuaded us to buy tickets for a cabaret night at the Cafe Carlyle, in the hotel of the same name, best known for hosting evenings with Woody Allen on the jazz clarinet. "It's Ute Lemper," they enthused. "You'll love it." And they were driving five hours to join us.

Sceptical, we turned up and took our seats. I vaguely knew that Ms Lemper had starred in Chicago once on Broadway, but otherwise she was a blank sheet to me. I hardly expected to become captivated by this German chanteuse, with the Dietrich-like presence and an intensity of voice that would have made Carnegie Hall a more appropriate venue. She sang Piaf and Weill, and even Van Morrison.

All that was left was to toast our friends for their wisdom. Except that they had got lost driving out of DC and walked into the cafe the very moment Ms Lemper was bidding us guten nacht.