A lot of people would be familiar with Johnny Cash’s life and music thanks to the biopic, Walk the Line. But I Am Johnny Cash is a documentary about the late man in black that manages to be a great watch and offers us some more information about this iconic singer-songwriter. I Am Johnny Cash is not a comprehensive or definitive film but it is an entertaining look at his life and legacy as his family, friends and famous fans gather together to look back and describe Cash’s life in an honest and frank way.

Derik Murray and Jordan Tappis direct this documentary and frame the story around a number of Cash’s famous songs including “Cry Cry Cry,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk The Line” and “San Quentin.” It begins by describing how Cash’s mother would sing gospel songs in order to escape the drudgery of working in the cotton fields. It also talks about Cash’s fractured relationship with his father and it was one that suffered a terrible blow when Cash’s brother Jack passed away following an accident at the age of 15. This death was something that left an indelible scar on Johnny.

This documentary is forthright in describing the good and bad times in Cash’s career and saves the viewer from having to watch a hagiography. There’s Cash’s first marriage to Vivian Liberto and the births of his daughters as well as his long absences away from home after he began having success in music. There was also his amphetamine addiction and the career downfall he suffered in his twilight years. There is also lots of footage with Cash and his second wife, June Carter Cash. It was a marriage that lasted the long haul because the pair were like soul mates, so much so that even Cash’s daughter Rosanne admits that she could understand the reason why things worked out between her father and step-mother.

The film includes a number of black and white photographs as well as archive footage, including videos from Cash’s television series, The Johnny Cash Show. The latter sees Cash interviewing famous celebrities like Bob Dylan (the pair would record a duet together) as well as Joni Mitchell and Ray Charles. This documentary also includes a number of talking head interviews with Cash’s contemporaries, collaborators and famous fans including: Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, John Mellencamp and Eric Church, to name a few.

I Am Johnny Cash is a celebration of one complex and mysterious artist. This film manages to describe some key elements from his life but there was also some room for further discussion and exploration. The film features lots of Cash’s music and it is an honest portrayal of an anti-authoritarian, political songwriter and a charming, larger-than-life character who really was an all-American hero.

Originally published on 7 January 2017 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/johnny-cash-dvd-review/

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We all know a David Brent. The original Brent (played toe-curlingly well by Ricky Gervais) was the major reason for The Office’s success, and though it’s been over 13 years since the program’s Christmas special aired and tied up all those loose ends, Brent the “entertainer” has resurfaced. The world might have changed, but Brent hasn’t.
Life On The Road takes the lead from the mockumentary style of the TV series, but it’s not The Office: The Movie. The film features none of the original cast of characters save for Brent, and Gervais’ fellow writer and The Office’s co-creator Stephen Merchant played no part in this project. However, despite the trouble that such a dearth suggests, thankfully the film is not the disaster it could have been.

Mr. Brent is now a sales rep at Lavichem, a company that sells cleaning and personal hygiene products, but he’s still an idiot clutching at dreams of rock stardom. Eventually, following his dreams, he cashes in his pension and assembles a group of hired guns to perform as his backing band for a tour of Slough. The only problem is his bandmates hate him (he even has to pay them to drink with him) and the tour is a shambles and whirlwind of humiliation for the former manager of Wernham-Hogg.

This film sees Gervais continuing to straddle the lines between cheeky jokes and gags that are plain spiteful and mean-spirited. If you weren’t a fan of the TV show then this is not a film for you. Brent has not grown as a character: in fact, he’s more of a caricature than ever, and his affected immaturity is still easily his defining character note.

Ultimately, the film has some strong gags, and is filled with songs that are enjoyably bad. Brent’s backing band, the Foregone Conclusion, are slapdash in all the right ways and their folk/rock stylings are enjoyably middle-of-the-road. A tune like ‘Lady Gypsy’ is a crystallised version of Brent’s character: all swagger and stiffness.

That said, the supporting characters are underwritten, and there are moments that feel loose, and not properly thought out. There are still times when the original wit and humour of the television show feels lacking: gaps that may very well leave you wanting to go back and enjoy the original show in order to get your entertainment fix.

Originally published on 24 August 2016 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/arts/david-brent-life-road

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Stéphanie ‘Soko’ Sokolinski is a self-confessed witch, vampire and alien. She often sounds like she’s lived a lifetime of melodrama, yet she’s just 29. Her second studio album is an open-book account of the above and includes a cameo from Ariel Pink. The self-taught French musician originally built a reputation on lo-fi, indie folk tunes. On her latest record, ‘Keaton’s Song’ is the only track to resemble her earlier work.

Love, heartbreak and loss are big themes on this album. It’s no surprise that Soko’s favourite artists are Robert Smith and Morrissey, with many album tracks resembling The Cure’s dark sound. Ross Robinson (The Cure) produced this record and Soko used a baritone guitar, just like Smith. Soko’s music is not particularly original, but what it lacks in creativity it makes up for in attitude, like in the broody and mischievous ‘Ocean Of Tears’. There’s also the sunny-sounding gay rights anthem, ‘Who Wears The Pants??’, before ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ makes us realise how insecure and frightened of commitment Soko is, despite being steadfast in refusing to conform.


Soko’s second album is raw, retro-sounding and personal. It may not be groundbreaking, but this is definitely emotional enough in laying one gothic soul to bare.


Originally published on 10 March 2015 at the following website: http://www.thebrag.com/music/soko-my-dreams-dictate-my-reality

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The Lone Bellow are a trio from Brooklyn, New York who produce country and alt-rock music. They’re also a band that boasts no less than a former star footballer, a French culinary chef and a former member of a barbershop quartet in their ranks. This sounds like the set-up to an odd joke but we promise it isn’t.

The group previously released their eponymous debut record of country songs. It was recorded in their favourite music venue, the Rockwood Music Hall, with money raised through Kickstarter. In the intervening years they have managed to land guest spots on Jimmy Kimmel and other great touring slots.

Their follow-up record, Then Came The Morning was recorded with producer, Aaron Dessner of The National who also brought in his brother and band mate, Bryce to assist with the wind and string arrangements. Across 13 tracks the band chronicle their personal struggles and other aspects of their collective experiences through a range of musical styles including folk, country, gospel and rock.

Music Feeds sat down with singer and mandolin player, Kanene Pipkin to learn more about Southern gothic imagery, baking and more about this group of self-confessed, “strange people”.


Music Feeds: Then Came The Morning has been described as a mix of harmonies, folk sincerity, gospel fervor and even heavy metal thunder. Tell us about the writing process for the record. What music, art, books, etc. influenced this record?

Kanene Pipkin: We had been on the road almost non-stop from the release of our first record until we started recording Then Came The Morning. Touring life can be both exhausting and exhilarating, the highs and lows are so extreme. We’ve all been through some pretty difficult seasons since we started doing this full time, and we have learned a lot about each other; how to take care of one another while we’re away from our families, how to forgive each other, how to sing better together, really just how to be a better band.

I believe this record, the way it sounds and the songs we wrote and chose to include, has been most heavily influenced by our hard-earned trust in each other. We were able to take risks in writing new songs, dust off and finish older material, and really take our time to make it the best record we are capable of making in this stage of our band. As the songs began to take shape, we thought a lot about the sounds we wanted to capture, and listened to a lot of Vegas-era Elvis, Neil Young, Sam Cooke and Van Morrison for inspiration.

MF: On your website it says that Zach Williams first started writing a journal and then writing songs after his wife was recovering from a horse accident. What was the inspiration behind the lyrics on the album?

KP: This album draws more from our collective experiences, family lore, marriage, and personal struggles. There are also a few story songs thrown in for good measure.

MF: What was it like working with producer Aaron Dessner of The National? How did Aaron’s brother and band mate Bryce Dessner contribute to the record?

KP: Working with Aaron was a serious dream come true, and it was honestly just really fun. Aaron is one of the kindest people you will ever meet, and he knows how to get the best out of you. He is full of incredible sports analogies that he will whip out if you start to slack or get tired of trying something over and over, and it did the trick for us every time.

Bryce did all of the wind and string arrangements, and completely exceeded every expectation and hope we had. They’re both so incredibly gifted and meticulous, and put a lot of thought into every sound, every instrument, every part and player on the record.

MF: How did recording this album differ from your self-titled debut?

KP: Time is the biggest factor. For our first record, we hadn’t even been together for a year, and we just recorded our set list at the time, which was the first 12 or so songs we learned together as a band. We raised the money for it on Kickstarter, and we all had to beg for enough time off from our jobs to record it.

We did all the basic tracks in two and a half days by turning our favorite venue in the city, Rockwood Music Hall, into a studio. We then went to Nashville a few months later to overdub vocals and a few more instrumental tracks.

With this record, we didn’t have other jobs to worry about, but had the opportunity to focus all our energies on this one project. We had about forty songs to choose from, and had been a band for much longer and had played infinitely more shows together.

We were also in a real studio, Dreamland, near Woodstock, New York. The studio served as an actual instrument in the recording process; we put microphones all over the sanctuary and did all the vocals live, together in the room.

We also stayed together in a friend’s cabin near the studio in upstate New York, and would take the hour long drive down the mountain together each morning. The whole experience was all encompassing and rejuvenating. Aaron also lives near us in Brooklyn, and we were able to be at home and finish up instrumental overdubs and tweaks in his backyard studio.

MF: On your group’s Instagram there is a photo by Mackenzie Rollins which you say forms part of a larger photo essay for this record. Where did the inspiration come from for these photos? Do you have a favourite photo from the photo essay and why?

KP: The record deals a lot with what we see as Southern Gothic subject matter, so we wanted to capture some images from small towns near where we grew up, and tell the stories of people who don’t normally get their stories told.

My personal favorite is the one we chose for the cover, of the beautiful older woman sitting in a little diner in Georgia, drinking her morning coffee. It’s such a gorgeous photograph, and it fits the tone of this record perfectly. Because for me, the title of the record is meant to convey a sense of hope, a possibility for renewal, but it can risk sounding a little too grandiose.

I’ve found most of the time, hope doesn’t come instantaneously in epic wonderful phenomena, but it comes in small, mundane choices, like choosing to get up, get out, have a cup of coffee and face the day.

MF: Do you guys have any plans to tour Australia for this record?

KP: We would absolutely love to. It needs to happen.

MF: What was it like performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live? Are there any funny or interesting stories from the green room?

KP: The first time we played Kimmel we were all nervously sitting around our dressing room, waiting to rehearse, when Gary Busey walks in, with cake all over his face, and starts talking to Zach about what kind of underwear he prefers. Then he asked me to wink at the camera for him. It was an existential experience.

MF: I believe that one of your special talents is that you’re a French culinary chef. Does any member of the band have a “signature dish” they like to prepare whilst on the road?

KP: Ha! Yes, I moved to NYC from Beijing in order to become a pastry chef, then move back to Beijing and open a shop and teach, but then the band happened. I still bake any chance I get, and if I had a kitchen on the road, there would be no end to the delicious treat making!

When we get home, the first thing I usually make is some kind of pie or a big batch of chocolate chip cookies, just crisp on the edges and gooey in the middle, with some really class chocolate and Maldon on top.

MF: I believe that guitarist Brian Elmquist is a former star football player and member of a barbershop quartet. Has he ever considered incorporating barbershop music into The Lone Bellow’s sound? What do you think is the strangest musical genre you could incorporate into your music?

KP: Yes, Brian is a living, breathing paradox. He does think of some pretty wonderful and complicated harmonies, so maybe barbershop has already leaked into our music without us realising. I don’t think any genre of music is too strange for us to dabble in at least once, we’re kind of strange people.


Originally published on 20 January 2015 at the following website: http://musicfeeds.com.au/news/australian-premiere-stream-the-lone-bellows-new-album-then-came-the-morning/

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Dan Sultan’s latest EP Dirty Ground draws together a collection of demos and outtakes from his latest Blackbird record, all tracked in a single day.

The six songs actually have a lot more in common with The Beatles’ song of the same name, because here Sultan moves away from his soulful rock’n’roll sound to focus on raw, stripped-back folk music.

The title track is outstanding, an aching ballad co-written with Paul Kelly that manages to be both catchy and relatable. The same cannot be said for ‘Mountaintop’, which was co-written with Paul Dempsey. It sees Sultan’s beautiful, smoky voice pleading with the listener, but it also contains overly simplistic and repetitive lyrics delivered with a quiet hush, making it too sparse.

‘The Same Man’ and the piano ballad ‘Gullible Few’ originally appeared on Blackbird, but the former – written in Nashville – is offered here in an acoustic version. Both are solid inclusions to the collection.

Dirty Ground sees Sultan produce some mature, emotional and honest songs that will charm fans who like it best when he plays the humble storyteller.

Originally published on 2 December 2014 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/music/dan-sultan-dirty-ground

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Frente’s Marvin The Album celebrates a significant milestone this year, its 21st birthday. To celebrate, the band have re-released their debut record and made it into a deluxe, remastered two-CD version as well as touring in support.

Marvin is light, sweet and summery and looks poised to win some new fans, while there will be many others who will be listening to it again in order to reminisce (I’m looking at you, Sarah Blasko).

If we cast our minds back to late 1992 and early 1993 we should consider the then-musical landscape. This may not have been a conscious thought in the band’s minds but the music world is full of masculine-sounding rock and grunge. Heavy guitars abound, teen angst is high (despite the mood being low) and the prevailing thought is that anything bigger (volumes, solos, etc) is better. Enter Frente, a girly-sounding, anti-rock group thanks to frontwoman, Angie Hart, and their music, which straddles the line between pop and folk music

The anniversary edition sees the 13-tracks from the original Australian album expanded to 16 to include the extra cuts from the group’s international release. These new tracks include the soft, acoustic cover of New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’. It’s a very different beast to the original, and yet on Frente’s very own ‘1.9.0’ they sound a little like the Manchurian group as there is a catchy riff combined with some quietness.Frente achieved their biggest success with their bouncy, summery single, ‘Accidently Kelly Street’. It was written after bassist, Tim O’Connor moved house and mispronounced Kenny as Kelly. It is full of giddy, youthful effervescence and it was largely off the back of this and their other big single, Ordinary Angels’ that the group became an international concern and sold 1.2 million copies of this record.

The members of Frente had varied musical tastes and had strong and assured-enough personalities so that they were able to draw inspiration from other artists and still sound completely like themselves. In lesser hands the sweet, nuanced and fragile ‘Girl’  would not work as the opening track to ‘Accidently Kelly Street’. There is the nice balladry of ‘Pretty Friend’, with the song sounding like yet another facet of their musical personalities. And the group is very good at making twee music as shown on ‘Ordinary Angels’.Depending on your view, this can be endearing and charming or annoying and grating.

Above everything else, Frente are sweet and they sound comfortable in their own skins. Their quirky, acoustic-based songs are full of whimsical flutter, but when you scratch the surface there is more on offer here then light, airy and dismissible pop. Marvin The Album is positive, cute and honest and is peppered with an innocence of youth that shows no signs of mellowing with age.

Originally published on 26 August 2014 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/frente—marvin-the-album-21st-anniversary-edition-26082014.html

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brian may


Queen guitarist, Brian May and West End and Broadway songstress, Kerry Ellis are no strangers to touring together. The pair first performed shows together in 2011 and have since gone on to release a single and play more dates in the UK and Europe, and all of this culminated in a show at Montreux Jazz Festival in 2013. The concert was recorded and filmed and will now be released on CD, DVD and Blu-ray.

The Candlelight Concerts – Live at Montreux was designed to be like having two talented artists performing together in your house. The backdrop on stage and the set has some candles and the night begins with a reverential air. This subsequently closes in to transform the Stravinski auditorium into a warm and intimate space with the process seeming like a large hug. May and Ellis do an excellent job of engaging the audience with engrossing and informative dialogue that only adds to the close, family-like atmosphere of the proceedings.

The pair perform a raw, stripped back set with May playing mostly acoustic but occasionally the electric guitar and they are joined by Jeff Leach on keys. The group perform Queen songs plus old standards and covers. There is a great chemistry between the artists and this translates into a good sense of feeling and emotion underpinning this beautiful and atmospheric pop/rock music.

May does an excellent job of wringing all sorts of emotion out of his guitar playing while Ellis’ gorgeous voice is full of theatrics (no doubt a result of her day job). ‘I Who Have Nothing’ is a romantic start to the show and a sweet ballad before the prophetic and profoundly sad Kansas cover, ‘Dust In The Wind’. May and Ellis then perform their charity single, ‘Born Free’ (a track made famous by Barbara Streisand) which is accompanied by excerpts from a video featuring animals filmed in Africa. Animal conservation and welfare is a topic that is close to both of the stars’ hearts and this is especially obvious during “Nothing Really Has Changed” (this song appears twice with the second version being a bonus track).

The classic Beatles song, ‘Something’ is performed well, as May plays some sublime acoustic  guitar but sadly Ellis has changed the lyrics so that she could sing it about a man (rather than George Harrison’s then love, Pattie Boyd) and this makes it a tad hollow. The Brian May solo staple and instrumental, ‘Lost Horizon” is also performed and while poignant and sad in its build-up, it does at times verge on indulgence. The numbers that received the best reception of the night were undoubtedly the Queen favourites, ‘Somebody To Love’, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ (the latter an all-stomping sing-along for the Queen fans in the audience).

Brian May and Kerry Ellis’ performance at Montreux is an engaging show that is full of sensitive and touching moments, especially when they play such respectful tributes to some late, great musicians (like Freddie Mercury and George Harrison). This intimate concert is a grand spectacle that is full of feeling and above all, has an amazing atmosphere. This means it is the sort of show that people will want to enjoy and share more than once.


Originally published on 3 April 2014 at the following website: http://sfmedia.com.au/brian-may-kerry-ellis-the-candlelight-concerts-live-at-montreux-2013-dvd-review/

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On album number six, John Butler takes a step off his social and political soapbox to sip wine at the altar of love.

Flesh & Blood is Butler’s most collaborative effort to date. To give you a taste, there’s the catchy single, ‘Only One’; the high-energy, blues rock number ‘Devil Woman’; and the dub, ‘Blame It On Me’, co-written from jams with his tight-knit bandmates Byron Luiters and Nicky Bomba (who has since left the group to focus on Melbourne Ska Orchestra).

Across 11 tracks, Butler stills sings with his occasionally gentle and sometimes feisty lead vocals, and the music boasts funky grooves and rhythms that touch on the rock, folk, pop, and hip-hop styles.

The singer-songwriter has definitely spread his wings a little with this album, adding extra layers and programmed beats to his folk songs and acknowledging that his lyrical inspiration was from other people (like the young, junkie couple that inspired ‘Young & Wild’). But despite this apparent departure, Butler remains true to his old form while also sounding fresh and keeping things personal, honest, and emotional.

‘Wings Are Wide’ is the best example of this, a raw love song that was written from his late grandmother’s perspective, and a tune that encapsulates the decades she mourned for her late husband.

Flesh & Bone is a full and meaty record that, while diverse and varied, does overstay its welcome a little, especially when lyrical clichés are offered up in ‘Livin’ In The City’. But despite some minor flaws, what’s left behind is a very true and human album where the well of inspiration proves to be deep, rich, and plentiful.


Originally published on 25 February 2014 at the following website: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/reviews/new-music/388090/flesh-blood.htm

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Neil Finn is one of those New Zealanders we’d love to claim as our own. He recently filmed a show for Max Sessions and the program was a star-studded affair. It saw Finn preview songs from his forthcoming solo album, Dizzy Heights and dip into his enviable discography of tunes accumulated over 40 years, starting with Split Enz, then visiting aCrowded House, doffing a cap at the Finn Brothers and having a romp at Pajama Club. In short, it was exquisite.

The audience included the likes of: Marcia Hines, The Doctor (Lindsay McDougall), Reg Mombassa (Chris O’Doherty), Peter O’Doherty, Danny Clayton and Kathy McCabe. Finn would also bring out a very special guest, Eddie Vedder to sing two songs during the encore. The show commenced with Max host, Chit Chat (Glenn Easton Dormand) saying it was a hard and daunting task to introduce Finn. He relied on a quote from fellow song smith, Paul Kelly who once said that Finn doesn’t just write songs, he casts spells, enchants and hypnotises you. And with that, Finn was left to be warlock-in-residence for the evening.

Finn was joined by a brand new, six-piece band which saw his wife Sharon on bass plus a host of young musicians on guitar, drums, keys and backing vocals. They started with “Pony Ride”, a new song which seemed to continue on with some of the experimental ideas that had been explored on the recent Pajama Club album. It was a great mix of funky, Fleetwood Mac-esque pop and dirty guitar riffs. “Flying In The Face Of Love” was also a new one and it was dedicated by Finn to the imaginations of a child and the adult who avoids some big questions. It had a broody echo and the kind of wa-wa riffs that typify Jimi Hendrix’s work.

The famous Finn banter was also a part of this show with Neil commenting on the “good art direction” (the set featured a large array of lamps suspended from the ceiling, giving it a lounge room-feel and was possibly a nod to Sharon’s other job at Sharondelier). The star also mucked around like a child, playing with his mic stand which he thought this sounded like the original sound of scratching i.e. pre-turntables. The band then started, “Fall At Your Feet”, but the pacing was too fast and Finn – ever the perfectionist – made them start it again.

The Crowded House favourite, “Distant Sun” had the audience nodding along before the sultry and nostalgic-sounding, “Impressions”. The new track, “In My Blood” came about during a jam he had had with his two musical sons, Liam and Elroy and it got him thinking about what things are passed on from one generation to the next while “Better Than TV” did just as the title said. It was a grand celebration of things that are superior to television and saw a funky drumbeat that The Cat Empire could play along with plus some big piano keys performed by Finn.

The band were given a break and it was time for a question and answer session. We learnt that Finn had cut his teeth in all sorts of clubs in Te Awamutu, including an early mental hospital and a prison for young offenders. He described being dragged – along with his brother, Tim – to perform at family functions by his uncle George, singing songs like “Jamaican Farewell” and “Shake Hands With A Billionaire”. He said, “The Beatles had Hamburg. We had parties”. He also mentioned learning about new technology like Pro Tools and Final Cut Pro to help make new music and videos.

“Message To My Girl” followed and Finn played this alone and on the piano. It was brilliant, so stripped back and sweet that it added meaning to what was already such a sublime and emotional song. Finn asked for requests and thought about playing “Last Day In June” but the crowd had to settle on the Crowded House song, “She Goes On”. The request for the band’s “Instinct” – which this writer would’ve paid to see – also fell on deaf ears, unfortunately.

One song that was an unexpected inclusion was the Pajama Club track, “From A Friend To A Friend”. It saw Sharon singing along with Neil to a distorted pop song that has only been played five times but has apparently been reincarnated in seven different ways. It was upbeat, as was “Locked Out” which allowed people to dance – well, as much as they could from their seats – and the Enz hit, “I Got You” also received a rapturous response.

But the biggest applause for the evening was in the encore when Finn surprised us all with none other than Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. We’d learn that Vedder was a drop-out because of the lure of music – including the Split Enz albums Time & Tide and Waiata (released in Australia as Corroboree). They were all too persuasive so he never graduated. The pair played two acoustic guitars for a cover of Hunters & Collectors’ “Throw Your Arms Around Me” before Vedder decided to dance along to the pop of “History Never Repeats”. Finn looked especially chuffed during this but the latter performance saw Vedder fluff a lyric and there were some issues with Sharon’s bass, so the group replayed it in full once again and the second time around it was really explosive. The band (sans Vedder) than brought the show home with “Weather With You”, a big song that was clapping skyscrapers of fun.

Neil Finn’s Max Session had been an excellent exercise in singing, dancing and contemplation as he’d whisked us along through space and time to touch on various elements from his catalogue. It had been a joyous and awesome surprise to see Vedder and Finn together, even though they’re no strangers to collaborating. But it was a nice touch and the cream on top of a wonderfully delicious show. Finn sounds as revitalised and creative as ever with strong, new material that will hypnotise you and take you on that magic carpet ride that started some forty years ago.

Neil Finn’s Max Sessions set list:
1. Pony Ride
2. Flying In The Face Of Love
3. Fall At Your Feet (originally performed by Crowded House)
4. Distant Sun (originally performed by Crowded House)
5. Impressions
6. In My Blood
7. Better Than TV
8. Message To My Girl (originally performed by Split Enz)
9. Faster Than Light
10. She Goes On (originally performed by Crowded House)
11. One Step Ahead (originally performed by Split Enz)
12. Dizzy Heights
13. From A Friend To A Friend (originally performed by Pajama Club)
14. Anytime
15. Strangest Friends
16. Locked Out (originally performed by Crowded House)
17. I Got You (originally performed by Split Enz)
18. Throw Your Arms Around Me (feat. Eddie Vedder) (originally performed by Hunters & Collectors)
19. History Never Repeats (feat. Eddie Vedder) (originally performed by Hunters & Collectors)
20. History Never Repeats (feat. Eddie Vedder) (originally performed by Hunters & Collectors) (played in full a second time)
21. Weather With You (originally performed by Crowded House)

Neil Finn’s Max Session will be aired Monday 24th March at 9pm on MAX.

Originally published on 31 January 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/max-sessions-with-neil-finn-feat-eddie-vedder-seymour-centre-29-01-14

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Tribute bands can be a dime a dozen and little more than a glorified radio or stereo. But then there are acts like John Waters. He has been performing his John Lennon tribute since 1992 and has also done a six-month stint in London’s West End with the show. And it’s easy to see why it continues to appeal, because Waters really gets at the essence – the heart and soul of Lennon – through an excellent mix of personal anecdotes and the music, of course.

Waters is no stranger to the stage and screen, having performed on Play School for almost 20 years and racking up over four decades in the entertainment business. He is one of those rare triple threats in that he can sing, dance and act and as he proved at the Opera House, he can also play some fine acoustic guitar. (The first ever audience Waters faced was as a singer and bass guitar player in The Riots, a London-based blues band in the sixties. It is unsurprising that some of the arrangements of Lennon’s Beatles songs and solo material were also given the blues treatment).

The show began with Lennon’s childhood in working class Liverpool with the pieces, “Overture – Scouser’s Lament” and “Liverpool Lullaby”. They were sung and performed on the piano by Stewart D’Arrietta and were a throwback to when Lennon was raised by his Aunt Mimi. John Waters then entered the stage for a mind-blowing, “A Day In The Life”. The first obvious thing was that Looking Through A Glass Onion was not about flashy costumes. Waters was dressed in a black leather jacket and dark jeans throughout, making him resemble Lennon during his early Hamburg days rather than when he was well-known as an international pop star.

There was virtually no backdrop, save for a psychedelic piece which was really only used for “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”. Instead, the focus was on the songs, some played in full and others just excerpts (which meant they were never really given the opportunity to overstay their welcome). They were interwoven with Lennon’s story with the lighting also modified to add to the storytelling effect. Waters tried to keep the narration chronological but some of it was changed around for greater, artistic effect and the set list was ordered so that the songs fit a theme and event rather than focusing too heavily on when it was written.

Waters was convincing as Lennon, as he spoke in a perfect Scouser accent and delivered anecdotes with the same wit and wisdom as the Great Beatle himself. As Lennon, he was self-deprecating and funny, with talk of wearing the same underpants as everyone else, despite the fame and comparisons to songwriters like Bob Dylan. Waters also captured John Lennon’s singing voice beautifully, at times doing the raw and raspy blues snarl of his early recordings through to the melodic and smooth tones of his later pop songs.

“You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” signalled Lennon’s departure away from writing gobbledegook numbers. “Working Class Hero” built on this, especially when Waters described the guitar as the ultimate street-fighting weapon. This rendition was faster and was almost like a honky-tonk tune that seemed more layered, than the rough, stripped-back original.

The show touched on Lennon’s initial meeting with Paul McCartney, The Beatles’ fame and their acrimonious break-up (it’s one that Lennon said was beaten up by the press). There was the controversial incident when Lennon said The Beatles were bigger than Jesus and their amazing love song which followed, “All You Need Is Love”. A lot of material was covered about the man who appealed to people’s pop sensibilities and who was once considered a radical (his political activities with Yoko Ono and other activists resulted in his being watched by the F.B.I). Lennon was ultimately a chameleon and Waters put it best when he said that if every song of Lennon’s had been a specific reflection of his character, he’d have something like 27 personalities!

D’Arrietta was excellent in his accompanist role. He used a stomp box to give some power to the blues arrangement of “Revolution”, he strummed an autoharp to take us to the Maharishi’s India and he did a broody version of “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the piano. “The Ballad Of John & Yoko” was played in much the same manner as the original (at least insofar as the number of personnel on hand). “Jealous Guy” was absolutely sublime and gorgeous, especially as it was described around Lennon’s lost weekend with May Pang. Similarly, “Beautiful Boy” was heartfelt and a lullaby to the son that he and Yoko never though they’d be able to have.

John Lennon was often thought of as a pop star, writer, musician, activist, guru and teacher and Looking Through A Glass Onion captured ever single facet of the jewel that was his short but rich life. The show went for almost two hours with an interval and it received a warm applause from the audience, as they were touched by Waters’ portrayal of Lennon, especially the humour, craziness, intelligence and emotion. The finale was the unsurprising but rousing “Imagine”, a minimalist version that started off in darkness and slowly saw the two performers’ faces being illuminated. It was a good way to sum up this intimate and highly personal evening. Waters and D’Arrietta had pulled back the curtain on Lennon’s life and allowed us a glimpse at his body, mind and spirit and allowed it all to shine on in a grand, pop symphony.

Looking Through A Glass Onion Sydney set list (NB: this list only contains the original Lennon and Beatles songs performed):
1. A Day In The Life
2. Glass Onion
3. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
4. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
5. Working Class Hero
6. How Do You Sleep?
7. Norwegian Wood
8. All You Need Is Love
9. I’m So Tired
10. Revolution
11. Sexy Sadie
12. Come Together
13. Strawberry Fields Forever
14. Help!
15. Nowhere Man
16. Julia
17. Mother
18. Woman
19. The Ballad Of John & Yoko
20. Crippled Inside
21. How?
22. God
23. Jealous Guy
24. Watching The Wheels
25. Beautiful Boy
26. Isolation
27. Imagine

Originally published on 30 January 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/sydney/review/john-lennon-looking-through-a-glass-onion-by-john-waters-28-01-14

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