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THURSDAY

Ute Lemper is a Teutonic beauty with a dark, twisting voice and a ready expression of supreme irony. And just because the musical climate has made it tough for her to get in, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t charmed her way past the doorman. Her specialty is dramatic European cabaret that conjures up a haze of unfiltered-cigarette smoke and the effects of strong drink, but her delivery is so precise, emotional, and unaffected as to sound thoroughly modern. Her voice is a place in which worlds collide—the thorny irresolutions of Elvis Costello’s songs nestle against Nick Cave’s billowing darkness, Tom Waits’ cockeyed bohemia, the absinthe and dead flowers of French chanson, and weary, wicked Berlin cabaret. Lemper’s latest album, But One Day, culls gems from a century of autumnal sadness by Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel, Astor Piazzolla, and other male channelers of the inner workings of women who have pasts, as well as her own compositions, and directs them into a survey of change, growth, and erosion. But One Day doesn’t refer directly to the unholy mess of the contemporary world; it assumes unholy messes as a fact of life. The interior world is the subject; what’s left of New York is the object—the destruction of one informs the other. Songs like Piazzolla’s “Buenos Aires” (“I shall die in the city/At the crack of dawn”) and Weill’s “Speak Low” (“One summer withers away too soon”) intuit but never presume how our hearts take fatal hits and build themselves up again, ready for another fall. Lemper performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $35. (703) 549-7500. (Arion Berger)