ARTS REVIEW: HAKAWATI AT SYDNEY FESTIVAL

hakawati-olivia-rose-photo-by-by-eric-berry

 

The term “Hakawati” may not mean a lot to people today. In fact, you’d probably be forgiven for thinking it was something Japanese. Hakawati actually means the art of storytelling in the Arabic tradition where story time is combined with the breaking of bread or sharing of food. It’s a wonderful concept and has now inspired a stage show, brought to us by the National Theatre of Parramatta, having its world premiere as part of the 2017 Sydney Festival.

This show is being staged in the private dining room of the El-Phoenician restaurant on Church Street in Parramatta. It is here that the audience sits down at a very long table, as if they were at a wedding. They then share a delicious four-course Lebanese meal of breads and dips, falafel, sambousek and chicken skewers with potato coriander before finishing off the proceedings with a strong, Lebanese coffee and a sweet baklava with fresh fruit.

The table had large wooden chairs elevated at the two heads. This is where the four storytellers of the night would come to deliver their complex tales of heroism, tragedy and familial clashes between generations and stories boasting complex emotions and layers. The Hakawati are traditionally rather cheeky so expect a few segues, jokes and some smoke and mirrors. This show also has lot of Australian references (to local suburbs like Kellyville, Granville and Auburn), local lingo (like “bro”) and stories that straddle the lines between being faithful to tradition while also navigating the waters of contemporary Australia.

Veteran Australian actress, Sandy Gore begins the narratives with a tale about a third son named Kareem and sometimes Kevin. This is a boy who is a pop tragic and someone who considers Kylie Minogue his fairy godmother. This story also uses stills from Moulin Rouge! and other pictures as well as the Minogue and Nick Cave duet “Wild Roses” to look at the topic of sexuality. It was an interesting way of tackling subject matter that could have been quite serious.

The second story was delivered by the effervescent and confident, Olivia Rose. She delivered a story about a cursed woman who had a bakery in Auburn. It also included some irreverent references to the Kardashians and a swipe at priests. The third tale was about a kid named Ali (whose surname may have been “Baba” and was told by Dorje Michael Swallow). Ali starts his own motorcycle gang called “The Thieves.” It’s basically a group of old bikers from North Parramatta who look like members of ZZ Top. The story also managed to link together the characters from the previous stories.

The final narrative of the night was delivered by Sal Sharah along with his fellow cast mates. This was a cautionary tale where the audience were warned to careful about what you wished for. By the time this rolled around the food and drinks had all been consumed and we’d had a pleasant evening getting to know the neighbours sitting around us. It also ended with a lovely surprise that was really the cherry on top for the evening and courtesy of Michael Stone and Emma Macpherson. To say anything more would ruin it.

The world needs more examples like the show, Hakawati. This night proved that it’s important for people to take a step away from being busy and distracted by technology and to sit and listen and get to know your neighbours. It is great to engage in some age-old customs that also felt relevant to Western Sydney and a fresh concept in terms of where theatre is concerned. The night offered some genuine opportunities to eat, drink, be merry and engage in ideas that were ultimately intriguing little bundles of food for thought.

Originally published on 15 January 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/sydney-festival-review-hakawati-proves-its-important-to-switch-off-technology-engage-with-people-through-food-stories/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

LIVE REVIEW: JIMMY BARNES @ ENMORE THEATRE SYDNEY (27.08.2016)

jimmybarnes

 

We all know Jimmy Barnes is the quintessential working class man and he will also be known as the “Working Class Boy” when his autobiography is realised. But after his recent Soul Searchin’ tour culminated in a stellar, sold-out show at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney he should also add “Soul Man” to his list of achievements.

This tour was to promote his latest record, Soul Searchin.’ Some 25 years after the release of his most successful solo record, Soul Deep, Barnes continues to entertain people by thumbing through and selecting choice cuts from an old soul song-book. The 60-year-old former front man of Cold Chisel played an energetic two-part set that saw this soul train rock in at well over the two hour mark.

Barnes was backed by a tight, 10-piece band and this showman made things look so effortless. “Hard Working Woman” had a real funk and groove as Barnes delivered his rough and raw vocals. In “Cry To Me” Barnes had the opportunity to tone down his trademark hollering and instead adopt more of a croon. It was a stunning rendition while a cover of David Bowie’s “All The Young Dudes” proved to be a nice ballad and a respectful doff of the cap to the Thin White Duke.

“Mustang Sally” was the first song to really get the punters up and dancing. This also boasted some perfect backing vocals by Jade McRae, Gary Pinto (CDB) and Mahalia Barnes (the latter had recently given birth and was subbed in to replace Juanita Tippins who had injured herself the previous night.) “Bad Girl” had all of the raw angst of Lee Moses’s original song before Messer Barnes declared that Wilson Pickett was his favourite singer of all time and played a searing “In The Midnight Hour.” This one really saw the horn section come into their element.

The group also worked their way through a series of duets. McRae offered “Reflections” while Pinto had some big shoes to fill when he took John Farnham’s place for “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.” This was lovely and as soft and sweet as a lullaby, but unfortunately Pinto was often drowned out by Barnsey. This was not the case for Mahalia who seemed to capture the soaring spirit of Tina Turner in “River Deep, Mountain High.” This was heavenly and it was interesting that Messer Barnes said he learnt to sing from Tina Turner after he snuck into her Adelaide show in the seventies and watched her from the front row.

The second set included some more powerful funk and opportunities to get up and dance. Steve Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” was wonderful and bombastic. The main set also came to a rousing end with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” the crazy ‘na na’s of Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” and the Chess Records classic, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher.” The encore also included some more swaggering soul, especially in “Hold On, I’m Coming.” But it was The Beatles’s “Hey Jude” that closed the night with a gorgeous sing-along and some enthusiastic lighters being waved in the air.

Jimmy Barnes’s Sydney show still managed to pack a punch even though he was playing us some soul songs and some of these could still be considered forgotten gems. Barnes delivered the tracks with a real heartfelt feeling and conviction and he proved himself to be an amazing showman who also shows no signs to slowing down. This Soul-Searchin’ tour saw Barnsey in his element, playing his favourite soul, R & B and blues standards in the company of family, friends and fans. It was a show that reached out and captured your heart, mind and soul and rocked it to its core.

Jimmy Barnes live at the Enmore Theatre Sydney set list:
1. Hard Working Woman
2. She’s Lookin’ Good
3. Cry To Me
4. All The Young Dudes
5. Mustang Sally
6. Bad Girl
7. The Dark End Of The Street
8. The Stealer
9. In The Midnight Hour
10. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
11. You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover
12. Mercy
13. Lonely For You Baby
14. Shake, Rattle & Roll
15. Keep A-Knockin’ (But You Can’t Come In)
————————————————————————————
16. My Baby Just Cares For Me
17. That’s Right
18. Hound Dog
19. I Gotcha
20. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
21. Reflections
22. Stagger Lee
23. Show Me
24. Rip It Up
25. Money (That’s What I Want)
26. What Becomes Of The Broken-hearted
27. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
28. River Deep, Mountain High
29. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher
————————————————————————————
30. Many Rivers To Cross
31. Chain Of Fools
32. Hold On, I’m Comin’
33. Hey Jude

Originally published on 29 August 2016 at the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/live-reviews/201608/197401

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LIVE REVIEW: ERIC BURDON & THE ANIMALS + THE KEVIN BORICH EXPRESS @ ENMORE THEATRE (17.05.2016)

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Eric Burdon always had a voice that made him sound like a weathered old bluesman, and now his body has finally caught up. The lead singer of The Animals recently celebrated his 75th birthday, and this Enmore show proved that although older and wiser, he can still effect pure nonchalance.

The Kevin Borich Express opened with ‘21st Century’, a rocking piece of raw power that had something in common with Jimi Hendrix’s work. Kevin Borich demonstrated some amazing guitar skills as he teased and conjured up great blues licks for songs like ‘Snowball King’. ‘Fight On’ was a thoughtful look at cancer, while ‘Gonna See My Baby Tonight’ served as a sweet lullaby to end a sharp and entertaining set.

When Eric Burdon performs he is basically saying, “For better or worse, you take me as I am.” He wore sunglasses for the whole concert as well as a crazy, psychedelic shirt that was so loud it made crowd members blush. He would often resort to reading his lyrics off a screen, and when he wasn’t doing that, he pottered around the stage and offered quips about fantastic Aussie seafood, or at other points ignored the audience completely in order to chat with an offsider. The guy is the epitome of devil-may-care cool.

‘Spill The Wine’ had a real, funky groove as Burdon’s young six-piece band (another incarnation of The Animals) played a tight track that was true to the original. Burdon still has a great, gravelly voice and scratchy vocals that show only limited signs of aging.

‘When I Was Young’ was reinvented as a mid-paced ballad that bled straight into ‘Inside Looking Out’. Burdon and band also performed a number of cover songs; some of these hauntingly good, like Lead Belly’s ‘In The Pines’ (made famous by Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York), while others did not work at all (see David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, on which the lyrics were still fluffed and Burdon couldn’t hold a candle to Ziggy).

The Animals’ biggest hits were the real highlights of the night. ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ and ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ sent shivers down the spine of everyone in attendance. The evening concluded with ‘It’s My Life’, and never before had the lyrics seemed so apt – for better or worse, Eric Burdon is Eric Burdon, and he ain’t changing.

 

Originally published on 19 May 2016 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/music/eric-burdon-animals-enmore-theatre

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DVD REVIEW: MATILDA & ME

MatildaandMe web

 

The documentary, Matilda & Me is more about the latter than the former. It’s a film that looks at Tim Minchin’s background and history, charting his rise from aspiring actor to successful comedian and renowned theatre composer. The movie is ultimately a fun and vibrant one about two great characters- the fictional, Roald Dahl creation, Matilda and the clever and creative larrikin, Minchin.

The film is written and directed by Minchin’s sister, Nel Minchin as well as Rhian Skirving (Rock n Roll Nerd). The former gives us quite a personal look at her brother Tim, showing us old photographs and home movies and narrating Tim’s story. Mr Minchin may have been introduced to theatre and creative things while still at school but he was an unlikely choice when it came to Matilda. There was a long road to success and some of this journey even included some couch-surfing at playwright, Kate Mulvany’s place. But it seems that the stars aligned with Matilda because this strange choice of composer would write some award-winning lyrics and music for the Roald Dahl classic.

Matilda & Me features a diverse range of interviewees. There is Mr Minchin himself as well as his siblings, Dan and Katie, wife Sarah and friends Andrew Denton and Eddie Perfect. There is also Dahl’s cool wife, Felicity, Andrew Lloyd Webber and actress, Mara Wilson, who played the lead character in the 1996 film. There are also interviews with those involved in the stage production like: playwright, Dennis Kelly, director, Matthew Warchus and the four girls selected to play the lead character in the Sydney production: Georgia Taplin, Bella Thomas, Sasha Rose and Molly Barwick.

The story is ultimately an inspiring one just like the book. It shows how Minchin went from a modest childhood living on a farm and near the beach in WA to becoming hot property thanks to a successful and award-winning musical playing on Broadway and in the West End. Minchin himself is quite an engaging and interesting character. He can be quite outspoken and vocal (the recent Cardinal Pell song is testament to that) but he is also quite modest and quick to downplay his hand in the success of the show.

The DVD extras include some behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews. They include subjects like “Meeting the Matildas”, “A look at the magic of Roald Dahl” the “When I Grow Up Song” and interviews with associate choreographer, Fabian Aloise and actor, James Millar who plays the scary principal, Mrs Trunchbull in the Australian adaptation.

Tim Minchin may have set some tongues a wagging with his blue eye makeup, long hair and bare feet but he was the perfect person to work on the stage adaptation of Matilda. Roald Dahl’s magical tale has been given a new life on stage and Matilda & Me captures some of that enchanted pixie dust and the essence of the creative driving force behind it all. This documentary puts its spotlight squarely on Tim Minchin’s star and gets an intimate look at the creative composer who took the story of a little girl and ran with it and a man that looks poised to do a whole lot more.

Originally published on 27 April 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/matilda-me-dvd-review/

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INTERVIEW: NZ PLAYWRIGHT & SCREENWRITER ROCHELLE BRIGHT ON DAFFODILS

Daffodils_HERO photo by Garth Badger

 

Punk band, The Scavengers once sang about true love being beautiful. You could also say that Daffodils is a gorgeous romance story set in New Zealand where the aforementioned are from. The play is actually a Kiwi cabaret based on a real life love story between two teenagers, a farm girl named Rose and a Teddy boy called Eric. The pair are actually the parents of New Zealand screenwriter and playwright, Rochelle Bright and the production celebrates New Zealand’s finest recording artists including Crowded House, Bic Runga and Chris Knox, to name a few.

We sat down with Rochelle Bright to learn more about the sonic and visual splendor behind the heady love story that is the ballad of Eric and Rose.

Can you briefly introduce yourself? How long have you been working in the arts industry?

Hi, I’m Rochelle Bright. I’m a screenwriter/playwright currently based in Auckland. With my collaborator Kitan Petkovski, we are Bullet Heart Club. I studied at Tisch (New York University) and the projects I enjoy the most are collaborations with bands. It has been more than 10 years now that I’ve been in the arts industry – working in various roles from writer, composer to producer.

Can you briefly describe your production, Daffodils?

Daffodils mixes iconic New Zealand songs with theatre to tell the story of my parents. It’s true, my grandparents and parents both met at the exact same place by the daffodils by the lake – 20 years apart. It’s become a family legend. Yet while their love may seem fated, life is always much harder and more complicated. This production takes you right into their personal journey, played by two actors (Todd EmersonColleen Davis) with a live band made up of LIPS (Stephanie Brown & Fen Ikner) and Abraham Kunin.

Why do you think audiences should come and see Daffodils?

If you love good music (indie, pop, rock, electronic) this is a good show for you. If you love a good love-story, this one is a heartbreaker (we’ve heard many a sniffle in the theatre). Daffodils is performed in a unique way – the two actors never once look at each other. They give everything to the audience. From the responses we’ve had so far from those who have seen the show, I would think audiences should come to see Daffodils because it’s a story that feels close to home and at the same time it hits you with music you’ll love.

Daffodils features a great soundtrack by artists like Crowded House, Bic Runga and Chris Knox to name a few. What’s your favourite song that is used in this production? Why did you choose this?

Oooooooo… hard one. Each track in the show is part of the great NZ songbook. They’re all favourites. I guess… the section we’re most proud of in the show is connected to the song, “Language” (by Dave Dobbyn). This song speaks to a generation of men who struggle to communicate. I choose the song because it so perfectly expresses the dramatic moment without being cheesy/saccharine. We were so nervous the night Dave Dobbyn came to see the show. Thankfully he liked what we did!

How did you come to pick the songs in this production? Were there any that were left on the cutting room floor? Why?

Throughout the writing process each song was picked differently. For example, listening to Crowded House late one night while almost asleep, I could picture the key turning point in the story. This was the first song I picked. Later on while skyping with my Mum, she told me a story about my Dad when they were dating. There was a kind of sadness in her voice that when I listen to a particular The Mutton Birds track I hear/experience the same feeling – so that song was added. Some songs felt like they picked themselves – if you’re doing iconic NZ songs, you gotta have this…. One of the best discovery moments was looking at APRA’s Top 100 NZ songs of all-time list and finding a song by Blam Blam Blam. I had not heard it before as it was before my time, but as soon as I listened to it, I knew it had to be added. Blam Blam Blam’s songs represented perfectly the tension in our country during the 1980’s. There wasn’t any cutting room floor songs per se; we did try swapping one song out with another during an early read through but we always found ourselves going back to the original song list.

The production features some great images by Garth Badger. Do you have a favourite image from this production and why did you pick this particular one?

We shot all the images in one wild crazy day with Garth in his studio at Thievery. It was super hot and we had to put our lead actress Colleen Davis into a full on wedding dress. We shot from above with a confetti gun. The result was stunning, like a snow globe. This imagery is followed by my parents’ actual 8mm wedding footage. It’s my favourite moment – as the new and the old come together in a really beautiful way. We love working with Garth, he’s such an amazing creative force!

Do you have a favourite scene in the production? What’s it about and why did you choose this one?

Another really tough question. The great thing about live theatre is that in every show the performers find new moments. In each performance they shine and create magic in different parts. So for me my favourite scene changes. It’s the delicate moments when in a performance the band, actors and story just hit a special sweet spot. It can be a really cute flirt, or a moment when the cast simply break apart in front of you. Music plays a huge role in this show, so sometimes it can be a musical gesture. For example, at the moment I think my favourite musical part is during a Mint Chicks song, the band has added a little Brian Wilson salute in the backing vocals, which I just love!

Daffodils is about young lovers, Eric and Rose. How would you describe their relationship? Is it one people should aspire to?

Their relationship is true to life – through slightly romanticised through my eyes. There is a natural/immediate push and pull between them. Both stubborn and proud, they put their own feelings aside for others. Drawn on details from family and friends, their relationship is based on true events. The way Eric speaks to Rose is taken from letters my Dad wrote to my Mum. Elements of fiction have been added, to keep the story moving and to protect my family. I think we all hope/aspire to meet someone who we truly love. We also know that to keep such a love is the hardest thing we can do in one lifetime – especially when we cannot control the actions of others.

What are Eric and Rose’s favourite vinyl records? Do you think these sum them up as individuals?

Eric and Rose meet in 1964. Rose would be listening on repeat to Gene Pitney “Only Love Can Break a Heart” & Dusty Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin’”. Eric, he’s got a different style, with The Beatles “Hard Day’s Night” & The Rolling Stones “Little Red Rooster”. Have a listen to these tracks, and you’ll hear them: Rose the farm girl and Eric the Teddy boy.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell The AU Review about your adaptation of Daffodils or future works?

This year we finished a Daffodils Ep – Lips Remix with the band and we are currently working on adapting Daffodils into a feature film. We’re really excited to be working with Rose and Eric’s story again in this new medium.

Bullet Heart Club is also working towards a couple of new stage shows; one is a collaboration with an Australian artist and the other with artists from Sweden. It’s early days, but you can follow us at bulletheartclub.com to see what comes next.

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Daffodils plays at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta from May 12-14. For more information and tickets visit https://riversideparramatta.com.au/show/daffodils/

 

Originally published on 21 April 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/interviews/nz-screenwriter-and-playwright-rochelle-bright-describes-the-kiwi-cabaret-and-love-story-daffodils/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

 

LIVE REVIEW: THE MICK FLEETWOOD BLUES BAND & VICTOR MARTINEZ @ METRO THEATRE (28.03.2016)

mick fleetwood fleetwood mac

 

Mick Fleetwood is practically an honorary Aussie, having toured here last October with the Mac and now back to boogie-woogie with his blues band. The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band’s Sydney show enabled an older crowd (some seated on pinched stools from the bar) to don its best glad rags and listen to songs typically found on old dusty 45s.

The support act was guitar virtuoso, Victor Martinez. He enthralled the crowd with a short, sharp set that mixed together finger-plucking, strumming and beat-boxing techniques on his acoustic guitar. Martinez managed to coax more varied sounds out of one instrument than an entire band. His visceral version of ‘El Cóndor Pasa’ paid tribute to his South American heritage while other moments saw his fingers dancing along in a blur. It was mesmerising.

Fleetwood is a true English gentleman who just wants everyone to have a good time. ‘My Baby’s Hot’ set the tone for an evening of blues tunes about babes and Cadillacs, while the ‘Fleetwood Boogie’ was the first of many songs to pay tribute to the Peter Green era of the Mac. The group pulled out some tight sounds as the famous drummer loosely kept time up the back while Rick Vito led the proceedings with his raw vocals and guitar.

Their version of ‘Eyesight To The Blind’ was an unexpected piano ditty that differed to the original as well as The Who’s rock version on Tommy. It was a boisterous little cover that sat well alongside the sultry riffs of ‘Black Magic Woman’ and the wistful ‘Love That Burns’.

Later, Fleetwood’s fans were treated to an extended drum solo from the man himself. It was indulgent, but in the best possible way, and would have made a good segue into ‘Tusk’. But instead the band settled on ‘Oh Well’, with special guest Jimmy Barnes singing along to this and red-hot versions of ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Shake Your Money Maker’. As to be expected, Barnes injected some extra fun and charisma into the second half of an already fine blues show.

The night closed with the brooding, instrumental lullaby of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’. Fleetwood and co. had covered great terrain over their two-hour set, exuding much of the crunch, swagger and pop of many of the downtrodden bluesmen who’ve influenced their work. In all, it was one loving homage to the past.

 

Originally published on 29 March 2016 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/music/mick-fleetwood-blues-band-metro-theatre

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LIVE REVIEW: ALBERT HAMMOND JR. & GUNNS @ OXFORD ART FACTORY, SYDNEY (19.02.2016)

alberthammond

 

Albert Hammond, Jr. arrived for his debut solo headline tour in Australia, despite it being a decade since his first record was released. The Strokes guitarist had a fair swag of material to draw on – with three albums and an EP to boot – and his band played a tight set to a largely lethargic crowd, with a sound eerily reminiscent of the group that made him famous.

The support slot was filled by young Fremantle quartet Gunns, who sound like they should be wearing paisley shirts and mop tops. The group performed a series of pretty, psychedelia-tinged tunes with an added rock punch. ‘Death Of The Sun’ and ‘Who’s Gonna Be Your Dog’ from their new EP were aired during a promising set, in addition to ‘Live By The Sea’.

Albert Hammond, Jr.’s set gave his Australian fans the chance to see the guitarist step out of The Strokes’ shadow and play frontman. The songs sound a lot like The Strokes, and Hammond has a nice voice, but he is no Julian Casablancas. Some of the songs had a great idea, tone or riff, but there were other moments where the tracks sounded far too repetitive and familiar.

‘Everyone Gets A Star’ was a fun and exuberant way to start and ‘Rude Customer’ was a slice of dance-worthy rock that could have been a Franz Ferdinand cut. Hammond’s newer material certainly has a more mature and wistful air, and that was particularly evident in ‘Losing Touch’ and ‘Side Boob’. They were performed well, but the crowd was rather sedate, which could have been chalked up to the evening’s stifling heat or because some punters wanted Strokes songs (there were none).

The set was instead filled with upbeat tunes from his AHJ EP as well as some material from his debut album. ‘Blue Skies’ proved a nice diversion from the more energetic pacing elsewhere, a slower and stripped-back piece of balladry, before the night closed with ‘Holiday’. It had been a show that often hinted at a retro sentiment packaged up in a jaunty, contemporary feeling, and while it had been fun to party with Hammond, some punters were left hungry for a Strokes show.

Originally published on 22 February 2016 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/music/albert-hammond-jr-oxford-art-factory

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LIVE REVIEW: NEIL DIAMOND @ ALL PHONES ARENA SYDNEY (09.11.2015)

neildiamond

 

You wouldn’t let your daughter date a Rolling Stone, but chances are you’d let your mum spend a night with Neil Diamond. The 74-year-old played an epic 25-song set at Allphones Arena with songs spanning decades of hits (including many cuts from his Hot August Night double album) as well as some new tracks. It was no mean feat for a man who first toured Australia back in 1976.

This was an evening all about good old-fashioned manners, from the announcer welcoming patrons to the actual star himself. Diamond was a gracious artist, frequently walking across the length of the stage to make sure every single person in the room got a chance to be sung to or connected with.

The show began with a Diamond-penned track made famous by The Monkees and the Shrek film, ‘I’m A Believer’. This big band version was filled to the brim with horns and some old razzle-dazzle. Another song made famous by a different group (UB40) was Diamond’s ‘Red Red Wine’, which had just the right amount of pop and reggae thrown in.

The star was backed by a tight, 13-piece band of musicians who were adept at playing lots of different instruments. This helped create different moods and flourishes, from the cool pop groove of ‘Crunchy Granola Suite’ all the way to some softer wistful ballads like ‘Love On The Rocks’.

A long and sprawling interpretation of ‘Cherry, Cherry’ still boasted that great acoustic guitar hook and allowed Diamond to step back and introduce his entire band. But the biggest song of the night was undoubtedly ‘Sweet Caroline’, during which a huge sing-along in the grey-haired crowd ensued, as well as a hilarious moment when three older women held up huge, Bridget Jones-like knickers. Enough said.

There were moments of pure sentiment and home movies (‘Brooklyn Road’) through to swaying pop songs, all from a man just happy playing his plain old daggy self. Diamond can still smoothly croon away like a youngster, but he also has the worldly wisdom of a gentleman who has learned a thing or two about the art of love.

Originally published on 10 November 2015 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/music/neil-diamond-allphones-arena

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LIVE REVIEW: SARAH BLASKO @ GRAPHIC FESTIVAL, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (11.10.2015)

blasko

 

On album number five, Sarah Blasko shimmies and struts to the language of love. Her recent show at the Sydney Opera House for Graphic Festival saw the world premiere and official preview of her latest offering. It was worlds apart from her previous concert at this iconic venue where she was backed by the Sydney International Orchestra. This time around it was about taut, indie pop tunes and celebrating a crazy little thing called love.

The evening started with track one from Eternal Return, “I Am Ready”. One thing that was immediately apparent was that this record is a synth-laden offering that was no doubt influenced by its producer, Burke Reid, formerly of the band Gerling. Sarah Blasko was also a little nervous about presenting it because it is so different. She was dressed in head-to-toe black and backed by no less than three musicians on keys (David Hunt, Neal Sutherland and Sarah Belkner) as well as Donny Benet and Laurence Pike (PVT) on bass and drums, respectively. The music shared more in common with the likes of St. Vincent and Bjork than her previous pop songs and ballads.

Sarah Blasko was funny and self-deprecating between tracks. She also showed a real assertiveness during “I Wanna Be Your Man”, but the clear highlight of the new material was “I’d Be Lost”. The song was absolutely beautiful, with some New Order-like keys (think of “Elegia”) and Blasko’s vocals that straddled the line between soaring and lilting. It was such a raw, strong and impassioned plea and it’s one you can definitely see doing well from this album.

“Beyond” was a sprawling and atmospheric tune, while “Luxurious” was dark and broody and similar to her older material. Some of the songs had a tendency of blending into one another in terms of texture and tone, but it will be interesting to hear these mixed in and integrated with Blasko’s amazing back catalogue at other shows in the future. The new album definitely appears to have its fair share of incredible moments but it is a very strong stylistic change for Blasko so it’s hard to know how her fans will react.

The main set finished with the record’s final track, “Without”. This also saw the end of artist Mike Daly’s visuals, which had been full of lots of metaphors and symbolism throughout the evening. They really supported the new material brilliantly. But it was clear that the audience still held a candle for Blasko’s older material. An encore featuring the quiet, “Here” from I Awake, as well as that record’s title track were brilliant. These older songs provided a better springboard for Blasko’s amazing voice while her new material seemed to support her cute, Deborah Harry-inspired dance moves a lot more. The audience were also treated to a magical, “All I Want” and the fifties-inspired, nostalgic pop sounds of “We Won’t Run”.

The Graphic Festival was ultimately a place where Sarah Blasko made a welcome return to the stage after a busy year making records, taking part in different collaborations and becoming a mum. Blasko’s voice remains as beguiling and wonderful as ever and her songs are still very relatable and complex, even though this time around the prevailing theme is lightness and love (leaving behind the darkness of some of her previous work). Sarah Blasko is a fabulous performer and songwriter and it was a real joy to preview her new album and share in a little slice of heaven with her.

Originally published on 12 October 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/reviews/sarah-blasko-sydney-opera-house-11-10-15

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

LIVE REVIEW: JOHNNY MARR & FLYYING COLOURS @ ENMORE THEATRE, SYDNEY (20.07.2015)

Johnny Marr: 'We invented indie as we still know it.'

 

Should Johnny Marr be re-named ‘Johnny Young’? That was the question at Marr’s Enmore show in Sydney on Monday night. And it wasn’t because he resembled the former host of Young Talent Time but because the former Smiths guitarist oozed energy and charisma. This was definitely a case of a charming man looking half his age but playing with the virtuosity of a hardened axeman over double his age.

The support for the evening came courtesy of a young, local quartet known as Flyying Colours. The music was very layered and textual, like running your hands over some shag pile. At times this reminded people of Ride while at other moments they referenced sixties pop, garage music and Nirvana. “Bugs” – from their eponymous, debut EP – had a very dreamy quality and proved a pleasant ending to their short set.

But there could only be one man of the hour and his name was Messer Johnny Marr. The former guitarist of The Smiths who has also played with The Cribs and Modest Mouse but these days plays solo save for a tight backing band put on an excellent show. The inevitable comparisons between Marr and his former Smiths bandmate, Morrissey were unavoidable but Marr is so down-to-earth, friendly and sweet. He’s a true, English gentleman to Morrissey’s uptight, prima donna diva.

The show started with some crazy, computer game-like sounds that marked “Playland”, as the audience was launched “Again and Again” into Marr’s rock ‘n’roll fantasy camp. This was followed by an excellent cover of The Smiths’ “Panic” before the band started alternating between songs from Marr’s solo records, The Messenger and Playland. In “Easy Money”, Marr took a page out of Franz Ferdinand’s book by offering us some very danceable guitars that were also catchy. “New Town Velocity” seemed a curious choice given our close proximity to Newtown and was the antithesis of the former and was instead, a broody rock song.

During “The Headmaster Ritual” by The Smiths, the audience were enchanted by a heady mix of scatter-gun guitars and melodic guitar riffs. It was a very similar feeling that Marr also conjured up in “Generate! Generate” in all its wordsmith-like glory. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” was another favourite for the crowd, as was “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. But for this writer, it was Marr’s take on Electronic’s “Getting Away With It” that was sheer bliss. This self-described “Disco song from Manchester” was excellent and while Marr’s voice didn’t resemble his bandmate, Bernard Sumner’s, he definitely got into the spirit of it all.

Johnny Marr was the quintessential English gentleman at his Enmore show and his encore featured not one but two Smiths classics, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” and the remarkable “How Soon Is Now?”. Marr’s solo numbers are strong and they were performed well but there was no denying that the audience loved the slices of nostalgia that came from hearing The Smiths’ covers live. In all, this was an exceptional show from a good man and a wonderful guitarist. He promised he’d be back next year, but not before he had proven to be this charming man and artist.

Originally published on 23 July 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/reviews/sydney/johnny-marr-flyying-colours-enmore-theatre-sydney-20-07-15

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com

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