Adam Pascal has a force-of-nature voice that could probably shatter steel, nevermind glass.
The Broadway star best known for his stint as Roger in the musical Rent, wasn’t shy about unleashing his powerful pipes on Thursday at The Matchbox, where he held a full-house crowd enthralled with tunes that ranged from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Peter Gabriel and Billy Joel.
The wiry 40-year-old, who still sports the blondish short hair that became Roger’s trademark, got things started at the Ignition Theatre-sponsored concert with what he called “one of the most beautiful songs in musical theatre — from one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen.”
It was Memory from Cats.
And Pascal put his own spin on it, adding falsetto accents and adding an unexpected rock edge to the tune about the wistfulness of growing old.
The singer then jumped to one of the most beautiful pop songs ever — Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill, which grew in intensity as pianist Larry Edoff added heft to Pascal’s acoustic guitar playing.
As the decibel level expanded, Pascal, in black leather jacket and jeans, delivered his purest performance of the evening.
His resonant voice was a perfect fit with lyrics that some consider to be about a religious experience (Gabriel claims he actually wrote the song about the time he ran away from home and his father came to get him.)
A similarly affecting tune was I Don’t Care Much, a carry-over from Pascal’s stint playing the Emcee in the musical Cabaret.
The song that’s an antidote to romance, “meant so much to me,” said the singer, who delivered it with an appropriately jaded air.
Pascal stepped aside to let Edoff sing an original tune, and also performed some of his own material, as well as Elton John’s Rocket Man, and Joel’s New York State of Mind.
In between, he told a funny story about a hostile crowd he once encountered.
“I don’t know where people in Canada go to die, but in the States, it’s to Delray Beach, Florida,” Pascal quipped.
Heckling seniors expected him to perform Broadway tunes instead of the original material he was booked for. “Why they booked me there, I don’t know,” he recalled.
Suffice it to say the disastrous evening ended with the elderly audience mostly walking out, Pascal cutting the concert short — then encountering, to his horror, most of the same disgruntled patrons at an after-party he attended — until his promoter urgently whispered, “I think you’d better leave!”
“So it’s not all fun and games,” said the singer, who also performed material by Stephen Sondheim, as well as from West Side Story — another musical he isn’t fond of.
But Pascal’s version of Maria was delivered with the attitude of a beat poet. While plucking away on an electric bass, Pascal found a myriad of different ways to intone Maria — all that was missing was his black turtleneck and beret.
The one less-than-stellar moment in an otherwise entertaining evening was when Pascal appeared to channel Ethel Merman while singing Kiss Today Goodbye.
While there are undoubtedly many ways to perform this musty tear-jerker, blaring out random staccato notes while affecting an arch attitude is probably not the best choice. (Pascal seemed to give a snide new meaning to the line “My eyes are dry.”)
However, the concert ended on a high, with Pascal’s signature Rent tune, One Song Glory, and its gorgeous “Time flies — time dies . . . ” reminder of the brevity of life.
His powerhouse performance certainly ended in a blaze of glory that many local fans of the musical will never forget.
Pascal appears in concert through Saturday.