Paul McCartney: Lives Kisses and BBC Electric Proms: Paul McCartney see the former Beatle performing songs, having fun and getting nostalgic. They also show two very different sides of Macca. The former sees him taking a leaf out of his parents’ songbook and doing covers of the easy-listening tunes that featured on his Kisses On The Bottom album. The latter sees Sir Paul at his pop-rock best, delivering some then-new songs and classics from his fabulous career with The Beatles and Wings.

Live Kisses was filmed in 2012 at Los Angeles’ Capitol Studios. The building is an iconic one that has hosted stars like Nat King Cole, John Coltrane and Bing Crosby, to name a few. For this documentary it seems that the biggest inspiration is Mr Crosby, as Paul McCartney croons away and creates an album inspired by his childhood memories of parties where the adults got merrier as the night progressed and where those in charge enjoyed themselves by singing along to pop standards and other classics.

The film is directed by Jonas Åkerlund who has previously produced documentaries about Madonna and made music videos for McCartney, Robbie Williams, The Prodigy and Roxette, to name a few. Here, there are also cameos from Diana Krall, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton. For the album and this rehearsal, the musicians included a 20-piece orchestra plus talented jazz musicians, John Pizzarelli (guitars), Karriem Riggins (drums) and John Clayton (bass).

Kisses On The Bottom was ultimately a rather sleepy and self-indulgent effort by McCartney. The former Beatle recorded it primarily for his wife, Nancy Shevell and in order to realise his dream of releasing a record of standards. The film itself does fair a little better though, thanks to its subtle atmosphere and deliberate softness. It really shines new light on old chestnuts, especially the hit, “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”.

The documentary features 13 live renditions of songs like the Guys & Dolls show tune, “More I Cannot Wish You”; the McCartney original, “My Valentine”; and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter” (this song contains the lyric that was the inspiration for the cheeky album title). These cuts are interspersed with titles taken from old 45s and are shown alongside muddy-looking black and white interview footage as well as some full colour shots. The result is that McCartney and Co. deliver things with a respectful air even though the former’s voice is very thin and showing visible signs of aging.

These days Paul McCartney’s voice is better suited to his own material and BBC Electric Proms: Paul McCartney is a testament to this. Recorded live in 2007 at the Roundhouse in London’s Camden Town the-then 90 minute set has been edited to one hour for this special. For this concert, McCartney plays numerous instruments including some pleasant mandolin in the-then new track, “Dance Tonight”. “Only Mama Knows” is another recent song to get an airing but it’s fair to say that these numbers are eclipsed by the brilliance, weight and depth of McCartney’s long and enviable discography.

The backing band features two guitarists, a keyboardist and drummer. A string section also joins them for a broody “Eleanor Rigby” and some other numbers. There is the rocking, “Flaming Pie” and the colourful, carnival-like, “Got To Get You Into My Life” while “Band On The Run”, “Live & Let Die” and “Back In The USSR” prove rambunctious and spirited. The Beatle ballads, “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be” see the capacity crowd singing along while the rousing “I Saw Her Standing There” seems as youthful and exuberant as the 17-year old it name checks. During this concert, McCartney shows he can equally shine as band leader and soloist (especially when he plays acoustic guitar while unaccompanied for a haunting, “Blackbird”).

Both Live Kisses and Electric Proms see Paul McCartney in his element and having fun. They also see him getting nostalgic over some wonderful and iconic tunes. While there are some moments that miss the mark in each film, for the most part these documentaries are rather interesting chapters and additions to McCartney’s illustrious career and will prove to be enjoyable viewing for any self-respecting fan.

Originally published on 27 April 2014 at the following website:

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When audiences flocked to watch the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk The Line, they did not learn much about his one-time manager, Saul Holiff and they probably didn’t mind. But the pair had a troublesome relationship which started off with the two arguing and becoming enemies (and their association ended in a similar fashion) plus they lived through respective additions and difficult private lives and they tousled over different religious beliefs. The documentary, My Father & The Man In Black sees Holiff’s son, Jonathon Holiff as writer, producer and director and piecing together his estranged father’s past in a clunky, but interesting way.

Holiff Jr. did not have a happy time with his Dad. The senior Holiff often treated his son like an adult to be managed rather than a child to be parented. In 2005 Saul Holiff killed himself, leaving behind no note and requesting no funeral or “family”. This confused his son, who wanted to know why the old man was so angry. Jonathon got his answer, however, in a storage locker that was filled with Johnny Cash memorabilia and taped conversations and audio diaries from 1958 to 1973, when Saul met and ultimately managed Cash.

The film opens dramatically and unnecessarily with a recreation of Saul Holiff’s suicide in 2005. This scene is overlayed rather confusingly with the sounds of upset concert goers from the 1960s when the then drug-addled Cash did so much damage to his voice that he was forced to cancel shows and entire tours. It perhaps is used to warn the viewer of the turbulence to come.

This documentary is also rather awkward in that Holiff narrates a lot of the story in the same overly-dramatic way as the opening scene. He also recreates many events with different actors and shows these alongside strange animations and precious archive footage like musical recordings, videos and photos. The story itself is not linear and tends to jump to different points in space and time, lending it a busy feel. Also, the ending is given away (that the principled and strong-willed Holiff quit the superstar when the latter was in his prime and that the former died by his own hand) before the story has even really begun.

Over 87 minutes we get a very personal character study of the director’s father and the latter’s relationship with Johnny Cash. The two men seem to have endured a lot of pressure and are like tense, ticking time bombs and there are lots of good anecdotes about the pair. But despite these, it often feels like the story is incomplete and is only a partial portrait showing some of the shades and layers of all three men (the father, son and Man in Black). Both Holiff Sr. and Cash are certainly complex and intriguing characters and it seems that Saul was the more serious and stronger of the two (at least in terms of self-regulation) as he was frequently ready to pick up the pieces that the erratic and self-destructive artist left in his wake.

In My Father & The Man In Black we learn about how a strong-willed and exasperated Canadian Jewish man came to manage a destructive, Southern Baptist. Along the way we learn how instrumental Holiff was in pairing Cash with his future wife, June Carter-Cash and how the manager would set the stage for the singer’s famous prison shows at Folsom and San Quentin. During a period when Cash was abusing drugs and alcohol, cancelling shows and being charged for starting a forest fire, Holiff was able to lift Cash out of the chaos and help him walk the line to superstardom. But it was also Holiff that was ultimately left unfulfilled and conflicted over neglecting his two sons. In this somewhat cathartic process, Jonathon Holiff learns that his father may not have left behind an explicit note filled with love, but he did leave an interesting story and legacy.

My Father & The Man In Black is part biopic and music documentary and even a sort of instructional guide on how not to parent. The film is an interesting look at the struggle, sacrifice and hard work that was required to manage a difficult superstar and the casualties that resulted along the way. It has some good historic nuggets that are bound to intrigue fans of the country singer and while at times it is dark, tormented, sad and remorseful, it does ultimately offer a silver lining of sorts.


Originally published on 21 April 2014 at the following website:

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GOF still - courtesy of Freda Kelly


When people think of John, Paul, George and Ringo, a name that doesn’t immediately spring to mind is Freda Kelly. But this humble, Liverpudlian woman was the group’s secretary; manager, Brian Epstein’s assistant; and the head of their fan club for 11 years. Good Ol’ Freda is a quaint little documentary about an inspiring woman who had one of the most coveted jobs in the world, when Beatlemania was at its peak.

In 1961 the then typist and 17 year old, Freda Kelly would be introduced to the Cavern Club, a place that smelled of “Disinfectant, rotten fruit, and sweat”. It was here that she’d get her first glimpse of The Beatles (who were playing with then drummer, Pete Best). They wore leather and were a far cry from the crooners and Cliff Richards of the day. From there, Kelly would go on to watch hundreds of their gigs and befriend the band. Some members would even drive her home plus she had a regular vantage point in the Cavern and would often sit backstage talking in the band room. She would eventually accept a job offer from Mr Epstein, even though this role displeased her father.

It was not long before The Beatles hit the big time and this naive girl was forced to grow up overnight. There were some mistakes along the way, like when she gave out her own home address for the fan club and received thousands of letters. But Kelly would remain a mainstay and survive Epstein’s temperamental nature, as she was a no-nonsense woman who got things done.

Kelly once asked Ringo Starr to sleep on a pillowcase a fan had sent in. She would also get autographs of the boys for the fans whenever she could and even sent out clippings of their hair and old shirts because she understood what it was like to be so devoted to the group. She was The Beatles’ friend and even became a virtual member of their individual families, going so far as to visit Ringo Starr’s mother, Elsie Starkey at the latter’s home at 10 Admiral Grove.

Freda Kelly is naturally a rather private person and this documentary directed by Ryan White (Pelada) is one of the few occasions she has every spoken publicly about the band. There has never been a tell-all memoir and in this film she does not rake over old muck or even reveal if she went out with any of the group’s members or not. The details of her own life are also rather scant. We learn of an ex-husband but not of their divorce and of two children (one of whom died young in circumstances that were not described).

Good Ol’ Freda is not the most comprehensive, contemporary or informative story about The Beatles. But it is entertaining, engrossing and colourful. Over the course of 86 minutes Kelly shares many wonderful anecdotes about these funny lads and really comes across as a warm, endearing and dependable woman. It’s a true testament to her that four original Beatle songs were licenced by the elusive Apple and Ringo Starr even takes some time out to send a sweet message to Kelly and her grandson Niall during the closing credits. This movie was made so that Niall would one day know about Kelly’s achievements as a young woman.

The documentary contains lots of archive footage and recordings, including The Beatles’ 1963 Christmas message plus old concert and interview footage. There are lots of never-before-seen photographs and there are many stories that have been as yet untold (something that is practically unheard of when you consider that the Beatle phenomenon must have been mined from every possible angle). The film is presented from Kelly’s point-of-view and is almost like sitting down for a cuppa and a biscuit with her save for the additional interviews with: Beatle publicist, Tony Barrow; Kelly’s daughter, Rachel Norris; Joey Bower (Fourmost); Billy Kinsley (The Merseybeats); fan club assistant, Julie Underwood; and Paul McCartney’s stepmother, Angie McCartney.

Good Ol’ Freda is an exciting, fun and feel-good film about The Beatles’ secretary’s magic carpet ride as the then tiny group from Liverpool conquered the world. This documentary is rich in sweet, nostalgic memories from a heady, halcyon time. Ultimately, this is a rich story about a loyal, devoted and admirable woman who ran a tight ship, achieved great things and above all, never sold out.


Originally published on 21 April 2014 at the following website:

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FILM REVIEW: CHINESE PUZZLE (Casse-tête chinois)

chinese puzzle


The film, Chinese Puzzle (Casse-tête chinois) could be re-named “Xavier’s Travels” or “It’s Complicated”. The French film and final instalment in director and writer, Cédric Klapisch’s trilogy puts middle-aged life and all of its vagaries and difficulties under the microscope. In some ways the John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” has never seemed more appropriate.

Audiences were first introduced to Xavier Rousseau (Romain Duris) and his friends in L’Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment) where he was a student living in a share house in Barcelona. In the follow-up, Russian Dolls (Les poupées russes) the group hit their dirty thirties and have to negotiate love, relationships and fidelity. In Chinese Puzzle the now-40 year olds are living in New York because Rousseau’s former wife, Wendy (Kelly Reilly) has fallen in love with an American man and decided to take the two children with her. This leaves Xavier with little choice but to follow her to the streets of New York.

Xavier is once again an utterly charming, likeable and articulate character. Here, he is writing a novel, the eponymous, Chinese Puzzle, for a drama-hungry editor. The book is supposed to be a story about his tricky life because not only must he grapple for the custody of his own children but he employs a sleazy lawyer who encourages him to marry an American in order to get a green card. Life is much more complicated than that however, as Xavier’s old flame, Martine (the feisty, Audrey Tautou (Amélie, Coco avant Chanel)) re-enters the picture while his outgoing buddy, Isabelle (Cécile De France) asks Xavier to be a father so she and her lesbian lover (Sandrine Holt) can become parents.

This light and funny tale jumps around in space and time as Xavier remembers different episodes from his life and tells these alongside current events. This is also whilst he is asking for advice from some philosophers (in order to try and make sense of it all). The ensemble cast put on an excellent show and really manage to capture the unusual quirkiness, farce and confusion that underpins this strange, modern life. In many ways this absurdist, romantic comedy with its New York City backdrop and keen pop psychology observations about relationships share at least a few things in common with some of Woody Allen’s best work.

Chinese Puzzle will certainly appeal to fans of the series (who will appreciate the subtle jokes and links to the previous films) but it also contains enough information about the main characters and their back stories to allow it to be appreciated and enjoyed as a stand-alone film. Ultimately, this movie is a feel-good romp that veers off into a number of strange trajectories and messes but at the same time it remains heart-warming, unique and fun. This bubbly rom-com is highly entertaining, sharp and mysterious and proves that in life all you need is love and a barrel full of laughs in order to succeed.


Originally published on 14 April 2014 at the following website:

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The story of Pinocchio is a well-known one. The little puppet who had to prove himself to become a “real” boy and the owner of the nose that grew whenever he told lies was first written as a serial and released as a book in 1883. It has been translated into hundreds of languages and had countless adaptations. The stage version currently playing at the Sydney Opera House is unique in that it is rooted in a very dark and modern setting.

Some of the characters in this adaption, created by Rosemary Myers and written by Julieanne O’Brien (Blue Heelers, Backberner) are similar to Carlo Collodi’s (Carlo Lorenzini’s) book and even Walt Disney’s famous film version. But the similarities to the latter end there as this show stars no Blue Fairy per se (but there are similarities to the character, Blue Girl). This play is also much more sinister at times with some young children possibly finding things a little scary, especially when the villains are involved. There is also a lot of music in this version of Pinocchio but the song, “When You Wish Upon A Star” (another Disney-invention) is noticeably absent, but the audience are still treated to lots of jokes and puns in the dialogue, which are a good contrast against the overall blackness and gloom.

The proceedings open with Blue Girl (Danielle Catanzariti) riding a motorbike in the air just like a scene from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. She crashes and remains largely unseen until the second act and this is a rather strange opening. It then feels like the story begins proper, as the sad, forlorn and poor toymaker, Geppetto (Alirio Zavarce) pines for his own son. He eventually builds a marionette he christens, Pinocchio (Nathan O’Keefe (All Saints)). Initially, Pinocchio is an obnoxious and cheeky child and O’Keefe does an excellent job of playing up all of the aspects of physical comedy associated with the character. At times this means he resembles Frank Woodley and he does manage to convey this naughtiness with a sense of real heart.

Along the way the rich but infinitely unhappy Stromboli (Paul Capsis (Angela’s Kitchen)) offers Geppetto $5 million for the boy but the toymaker declines. Capsis is a real revelation here, he is so camp and funny and at many points he steals the show as the treacherous villain luring Pinocchio away along with the animals he befriends, Kitty Poo (Jude Henshall) and Foxy (Luke Joslin). But Geppetto never loses sight of his son, even after the boy is a troublemaker and bully at school. The lowly toymaker tries to save him from Playland but Pinocchio is then seduced by the bright lights of Stromboliwood.

The show boasts a bombastic, modern soundtrack written by Jethro Woodward (The Turning, Van Diemen’s Land) who doubles as the musical director. The cast sing superbly and the music keeps the energy high, even as darker moments are explored during the story like when Geppetto desires his own son, the child rejects him and the villain, Stromboli wreaks havoc by pulling strings. The set is excellent and contains various levels, peepholes, doors and passageways and is excellent as Geppetto’s house, a deserted island, a school, Stromboliwood and Playland.

The costumes are colourful and fit in well with the choreography and overall feel of the show. At times the acting was a little overdone but this was in keeping with the children’s story and for the most part added to the silly, fun and humorous nature of things. There were also some very modern and local references in the dialogue with “Fitness First Fox”, Logie awards and actors hitting paparazzi, to name a few. This all added extra colour and flavour and lifted the show from being mere child’s play. Pinocchio was also a rather exciting piece that had multiple layers including some bright, animated sequences by Chris More. Jonathon Oxlade meanwhile, had to perform the cricket character with a puppet (and this creature also interacted with the audience and made the children laugh during the interval).

Pinocchio is a funny and cheeky series of episodes starring the puppet boy we all know and love. When you strip away at the layers this is a true morality tale where people can learn about the importance of hard work, honesty and integrity from some characters that are larger than life. Pinocchio is a colourful and energetic adaptation of a story that hones in on the tale’s darker elements and marries this with local and modern references, meaning you won’t have to get in touch with your inner child to appreciate this mischievous marionette-turned-real-boy.

Originally published on 14 April 2014 at the following website:

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love junkies flight test


Flight Test, the follow-up to The Love Junkies debut LP, should be called “mix tape”, as it’s one varied experiment of solo and group tunes that are difficult to pigeonhole.

The WAM (Western Australian Music) winners wrote, recorded, and mixed the EP in the foothills of Perth. The result is five honest tracks that explore some similar musical themes to earlier recordings; they could be written by a dispirited slacker, a snotty, troublesome punk, or a bouncing Brit-popster in equal measure.

‘Intro’ was a solo effort that Mitch McDonald conceived after a big night, a song that is surprisingly delicate, dazzling, and one altogether spacious epic.

The boys return to what they know best on ‘Chemical Motivation’. This starts out like some sweet and sunny indie-pop honey before proceedings turn to blistering rock not unlike British India.

This immediate, incendiary, and youthful energy also underpins ‘Blowing On The Devil’s Strumpet’, where McDonald vents his frustration at an annoying love interest amidst a loud cacophony of pounding drums, raspy vocals, and some Children Collide-esque rock.

‘Gloria To My Dysphoria’ sounds like it belongs on another record; it’s a poppy piano ballad that begins as a vocal piece, written by drummer Lewis Walsh.

Flight Test sees different emotions, ideas, and circumstances beaten together by multiple writers where the only commonality is a “dark” vibe. There are softer moments but mostly, The Love Junkies are about balls-out, ear-burning rock that bleeds.

Originally published on 9 April 2014 at the following website:

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Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! is a documentary film, travel guide and labour of love about The Beatles. In the course of an hour the director and presenter, Fabrice Ziolkowski visits the places in Liverpool and London that were important to the Fab Four. He also does this during International Beatle Week and he discovers that the group attracts many different fans and that this admiration really knows no bounds.

As far as Beatles documentaries go, this one actually reveals very little about the legends’ story and there is no original footage from The Beatles offered here. Instead, Ziolkowski interviews Peter Grant, a fan and Beatleologist plus quite a few musicians who perform in Beatle tribute acts. While it’s interesting to see that The Beatles appeal to many different ages and races (there are musicians here from Finland, Spain, Japan, Holland, England, America and Norway) the actual documentary’s story itself lacks a clear arc. Instead it just seems like dozens of tribute performances and a lot of musical covers thrown together.

Along the way, Ziolkowski uncovers “traces” of the group at St. Peter’s Church in Woolton (where John Lennon would meet the then 15-year old Paul McCartney), Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport and the boys’ four childhood homes, plus he also undertakes a magical mystery tour and makes a pilgrimage to Abbey Road Studios. But a lot of these places are already on or ticked off of the bucket lists of any self-respecting fan (along with Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, which are also visited here). Another point the director failed to mention is that the Cavern is not the original one or the other places around London that are relevant to the Beatles (e.g. the former Apple shop or the site of the rooftop gig). He also failed to play the group’s contemporaries, like Gerry & The Pacemakers when he showed a ferry crossing the River Mersey.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! has some interesting moments but you can’t help but shake the feeling that this is just a travelogue or series of postcards from a fan visiting Liverpool during International Beatle Week. Although it’s fascinating to show the endurance and mass-appeal of the group, especially in the context of the various races tackling tribute acts (like the Japanese bands’ respectful homages and the former members of the USSR who were not allowed to hear the Fab Four during the Soviet era), it does ultimately fall short and you can’t help but wonder if perhaps all of the best stories related to the group have already been mined. So while Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! may offer some good details to the casual fans, the more diehard admirers will already know and likely have visited the relevant places in Liverpool and beyond – or indeed International Beatle Week – and formed their own opinions.

Review Score: One and a half stars (out of five)

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! screened as part of STUDIO Loves: The Beatles on the Foxtel channel STUDIO 132.

Originally published on 8 April 2014 at the following website:

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The Fratellis’ show at the Metro in Sydney was their final gig of their recent, Australian tour. After a break-up and hiatus, the Scottish group along with their supports, Jenny Broke The Window put on a dazzling show. It was one that straddled the lines between rock and indie pop and it did so with the most enthusiastic burst of energy and harmony.

Sydney locals, Jenny Broke The Window were a perfect choice of opening act with their layered percussion, harmonising and indie pop sounds that at times resembled Vampire Weekend. They opened with some pounding drums and played a few tunes that had immediate and catchy melodies. It was the sort of music that was bound to hook in some new fans, even if they hadn’t heard the music before, because it was so lush and peppy.

“Abracadabra” was one of their slower tracks but it still managed to keep up the pace and the momentum of the proceedings going. “Fancy Dress” also did the same but it was the closing, “Rum ‘n’ Cola” that was the real crowd pleaser. By then the audience had swollen significantly and they were treated to a big, full sound and a song they’d probably heard on local and community radio. In short, it was a brief punchy set that was likely to earn the band some new fans.

The Fratellis were in town to promote their recent, comeback record, We Need Medicine. They would play nine songs from this effort as well as lots of old favourites from their previous two albums. They began with the exuberant, “This Old Town”, which saw front man, Jon Fratelli twisting and jigging away as he played, and it was something he’d do for much of the evening. It was pretty apparent from the start that the trio (along with touring keyboardist, Will Foster) were all happy to be there.

There were lots of jolting, lightning bolts of rhythm during “Flathead” and it was also a number you could imagine Jack White performing with ease. The stomping song, “Halloween Blues” followed and it was the first of many new tracks to be well-received but it was old favourites like the grooving, “Lupe Brown” and “Cuntry Boys & City Girls” that really got the punters’ hearts a-racing. “Vince The Loveable Stoner” on the other hand, had a lazy vibe that felt like the boys were sitting on a porch and watching the world go by.

A faster version of For “That Girl” was performed and it teased the crowd with its massive build-up while “Henrietta” proved to be a mass sing-along. One of the newer, rockier tunes, “This Is Not The End Of The World” was reminiscent of the one-two punch of The Hives before the boys retuned to the old, Britpop sunniness of “Baby Fratelli”.

The boys would close their set with “Until She Saves My Soul” but everybody new that something was missing. As the roadie set-up for the encore the near-full Metro erupted into everyone singing along to the “do-dos” of the as yet unplayed, “Chelsea Dagger”. The boys returned and played the hot-off-the-press, “All The Long Live Day” and a slightly different take on Dion’s “Runaround Sue” before the fans would get their wish and hear the track they had waited so patiently to hear all night. “Chelsea Dagger” was nothing short of amazing, arms flailed, the energy reached up and kissed the sky.

The night would then close officially with “A Heady Tale” and a promise to return soon. It was a strong number but it had been eclipsed by the penultimate tune and anthem. In all, The Fratellis had offered lots of bang for the punter’s buck with a 23-song set that was full of pulse and energy. It was something that never felt like it stopped, not even allowing one to catch their breath. The Fratellis have reunited and are back, having put on a fun and fine rock show that made most people feel like dancing their Sunday night away.


The Fratellis’ Sydney set list:

1. This Old Ghost Town
2. Flathead
3. Halloween Blues
4. Vince The Loveable Stoner
5. Lupe Brown
6. Cuntry Boys & City Girls
7. She’s Not Gone Yet But She’s Leaving
8. Whistle For The Choir
9. For That Girl
10. Shotgun Shoes
11. Seven Nights, Seven Days
12. Babydoll
13. Henrietta
14. Jeannie Nitro
15. This Is Not The End Of The World
16. Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night
17. Baby Fratelli
18. We Need Medicine
19. Until She Saves My Soul
20. All The Long Live Day
21. Runaround Sue (originally performed by Dion)
22. Chelsea Dagger
23. A Heady Tale


Originally published on 8 April 2014 at the following website:–the-metro-theatre-sydney-06042014.html

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This is what we call The Muppet Show… It’s fair to say that most people have a fond memory or ten from having watched either Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Henson Alternative’s Puppet Up! Uncensored is a live show that will make you feel nostalgic about seeing some of the old characters brought back again to life. Except that this is an adult’s game (just like the show, Avenue Q) and it’s something that is ions away from child’s play.

The show is the brainchild of Brian Henson (son of Jim Henson) who doubles as the show’s producer. There is a loose sense of controlled chaos to the proceedings as you have seven puppeteers (Grant Bacioco, Peggy Etra, Brian Clark, Allan Trautman, Colleen Smith and Ted Michaels) performing on the actual stage but the whole thing is also filmed live and shown on two screens with just the puppets starring from their waists up.

Puppet Up! Uncensored is improvisational and is just like Whose Line Is It Anyway? where the host asks for specific items or ideas from the audience. It’s commendable and impressive that these puppeteers are so clever that they can think well on their feet as well as manoeuvre and voice the puppets in entirely convincing and different ways. But that said, the sketches really are dependent on a good idea from the audience so tonight a mock job interview for a proctologist practically saw the jokes write themselves while a drama centred on a time traveller revealing his secret wasn’t very funny at all.

The evening also saw two old sketches recreated live. The first was “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face”, which was written by Jim Henson at age 20 and originally performed along with Jane Henson. This was funny and looked just like a scene straight out of Sesame Street. “Java” meanwhile, was created in 1965 by Frank Oz and saw two rather territorial puppets dancing against each other, which reminded me of a crowded Zumba class (there will be many ladies that get this analogy!) These were the two least offensive and cleanest sketches of the evening with the host,Brian Bristow having warned us earlier that most people will have been offended by the very end.

The night also saw an additional use for video in the form of sketches that involved some clever looping of recorded puppets with live ones. The first was Allan Trautman performing “Barry” the head usher’s old dance with his twin brothers. The second was “The End” where the whole cast got together to fuse puppets that looked like two huge monks (and required two people to operate them) with dozens of smaller puppets for one really anarchic ending.

A highlight of the night was when the cast picked on two audience members, Elise and Shane who were also on their very first date together. The puppeteers played the two in exactly 12 years time and the young couple had to buzz or ring a bell to indicate whether they disagreed or agreed with what was being said. The pair were good sports as the dolls broached the idea of having sex for the first time plus kissing and other things that were bound to make this date a particularly memorable one.

The cast all had wicked senses of humour. Patrick Bristow had even dubbed them all freaks at the very beginning. Brian Clark was especially funny with a quick and cheeky line or two. Colleen Smith on the other hand had a very dry and sarcastic sense of humour and she often came up with some great one-liners. Grant Bacioco was also a revelation, especially during the Hansel and Regretal (sic) segment where he operated a digital puppet shaped like a brain using a strange computer rig. Similarly, musical director, Dan Ring was also excellent at adding musical flourishes on the night and even had a funny moment of his own when he had Bristow enter the crowd to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”.

Puppet Up! Uncensored was very fun, often rude and extremely upbeat and off-the-wall. There was never a dull moment where the energy waned, even when some of the jokes missed the target (and this was often because a poor topic had been chosen rather than a fault of the performers). The show is clever in its execution and it certainly gets in touch with and relishes the naughtier side of puppetry. It certainly begs the question: “Who knew that Henson puppets could be so colourful?”


Originally published on 4 April 2014 at the following website:

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It was 50 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. Not quite. This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles only visit to Australia and the year that Beatlemania hit. In 1964 the band performed to 73 million viewers on The Ed Sullivan Show, played multiple overseas concerts, met Bob Dylan, recorded Beatles For Sale,released A Hard Day’s Night and made chart history when they held the top five spots on the US singles chart. Foxtel’ s Studio 132 will be celebrating the Fab Four this Saturday with a series of documentaries and concert films as The Iris explores in more detail.

John Lennon: One To One
This is John Lennon’s last full-length concert performance filmed on 30 August 1972 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Here, Lennon is joined by his wife, Yoko Ono along with guests like Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Roberta Flack and Sha-Na-Na for a concert that features his solo hits: “Imagine”, “Mother”, “Power To The People”, “Instant Karma!” and more.

Yeah Yeah Yeah
This documentary looks at the legacy of The Beatles, which started with the release of their first hit single, “Love Me Do”. This film is set against the backdrop of the annual International Beatles Week Festival in Liverpool. Each year, tribute acts from over 20 countries meet to celebrate a group which really began when John Lennon met the then 15-year old, Sir Paul McCartney at St Peter’s Church, Woolton in 1957. From here the group would play at various local venues, with the most well-known being the iconic Cavern Club where a statue of Lennon can now be found. This documentary looks at their meteoric rise and the reasons behind their influence and continued longevity.

Paul McCartney: Live Kisses
This is an intimate, 13-song film directed by Jonas Åkerlund and captures a magical evening where Sir Paul McCartney entered Capitol Studios in Los Angeles to record his 15th studio album. The process would prove similar to how he used to record with The Beatles and would include performances by the London Symphony Orchestra, jazz musician, John Clayton plus Diana Krall and Stevie Wonder. The record would ultimately become a collection of pop standards and two original McCartney compositions with highlights including: “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive”, “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down & Write Myself A Letter”.

Good Ol’ Freda
This feel-good documentary tells the story of Freda Kelly, a shy, Liverpudlian 17-year old who was asked to become a secretary to The Beatles. This film looks at the naive girl who was forced to grow up as she worked with a group who wanted to hit it big and subsequently conquered the world. Here, she reflects on her career, is self-deprecating, charming and funny and remembers what it was like to be caught in the eye of a musical storm.

Electric Proms- Paul McCartney
This concert film was recorded in 2007 and sees Sir Paul McCartney joined by a full band and special string section and performing cuts from an amazing career in music. Among the highlights are the Beatle favourites: “Eleanor Rigby”, “Hey Jude”, “Let It Be” and “The Long & Winding Road” plus Wings hits: “Band On The Run” and “Live & Let Die”.


Studio Loves: The Beatles premieres on Foxtel’s Studio 132 on April 5 from 6:30PM.


Originally published on 3 April 2014 at the following website:

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