The John Steel Singers are no strangers to producing bright, poppy sounds. But on their third studio album, Midnight at the Plutonium their venue of choice is a disco in the seventies and a soundtrack punctuated by smooth basslines, sweet melodies and hypnotic synths.

Single, “Weekend Lover” boasts local champions Donny Benet on keys and Jonathan Boulet on vocals and they seem to have created some healthy rivalry, because it comes across like a competition for the highest falsetto and tightest pants. The result is an awesome party anthem with a fabulous video clip to boot.

“Can You Feel The Future” is nothing less than a bizarre, eight-minute epic that started life as a psychedelic jam and includes some sultry saxophone lines and a bass that bubbles like an effervescent soft drink. It’s the complete opposite to the slower, more dream-like “Taxi or Walk?” This short interlude of introspection doesn’t last long, however, because it’s clear that this record has sold its soul to seventies funk and pop.

Midnight at the Plutonium is the sound of a confident in a playful mood, tinkering away on various pieces of instrumentation for its own amusement. Good times.


Originally published on 19 May 2016 at the following website:

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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:

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When we were children most of us would’ve blown bubbles and tried to catch them. As adults there is still something magical in watching large bubbles being created as they fly through the sky before they reach the end of their transient lifespan and go “Pop!” Melody Yang is someone that knows all about this.

She’s one of the lead performers in the Gazillion Bubble Show which encourages audiences to immerse themselves in an interactive world of bubbles and bubble artistry as well as watching some special lighting and laser effects. The AU Review sat down with Melody ahead of her Australian tour to learn more about creating a 170 foot bubble and what it takes to learn bubble magic.

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

My name is Melody Yang and I was born in a small village in Serbia, called Ruma. I am currently 24-years-old and now living in New York City where I am running the Gazillion Bubble Production with my brother which has now been running for 10 years. Both my parents have been street performers before I was born so I pretty much was born right into the entertainment and arts business. Once I was 4 years old my parents already had myself and my brother performing in talent shows, galas, circuses and more.

Can you briefly describe your show, Gazillion Bubble Show?

The Gazillion Bubble Show is a show for every age from years 2 to 102. It’s a show that combines art, science and modern special effects. The show displays various bubble tricks and techniques, for instance square bubbles, smoke bubbles, spinning bubbles, bubbles inside bubbles, audiences inside the bubbles and a whole lot more. We engage the audience by giving them the opportunity to participate. They get a chance to be involved as well as pop millions of bubbles surrounding them. Ending off the show with an epic ocean blast of bubbles and lasers.

Why do you think audiences should come and see the Gazillion Bubble Show?

They should come to see the show because they will be astounded by the numbers of things they’ll witness that can be done with just a simple soap bubble. This is an interactive show, we get everyone involved and engaged. Everybody gets a chance to burst millions of bubbles. It’s the only one of its kind where anyone can enjoy (meaning it’s not just for kids, but teens and adults as well).

The show features mind-blowing bubble magic. How did you come to learn this? How does learning bubble magic differ from regular magic?

Yes, the show features mind-blowing bubble magic but really what’s unique about bubbles is it actually doesn’t involve magic. You will witness me manipulating the bubbles and it all comes down to the science and physics. It took a lot of trial and error to understand how to manipulate bubbles. Sometimes if the air is too dry, the bubbles will pop very quickly so I will need to calculate the timing of my tricks. If there are many dust particles in the atmosphere than the bubbles are likely to burst. Also the solution becomes another factor, if my liquid is not mixed precisely according to the conditions of the environment then it may cause difficulties. But this all really is something I experienced over time and learned to overcome. Bubbles look very simple but to be capable of manipulating it took many years of experience, practice and coaching from both my parents.

In your opinion, can anyone pick up bubble magic or regular magic? What sorts of skills does one require to work in this area?

I believe anyone can do anything if they work hard enough to achieve it. However, I believe bubble artistry is not done so simply and to acquire these skills takes practice, experience and the understanding of science and physics. As for regular magic I would assume it is easier because there are not many factors that can cause a trick to fail whereas bubbles have many influences.

You hold a series of Guinness World Record titles. Which one was the most difficult to achieve? Why?

The most difficult Guinness Record was when my family and I had to create the World’s Largest Bubble. We completed the record which was 170FT long in length. The reasons why it was difficult is that first we needed to design a mechanism to construct such a large bubble that can last about 4 seconds without bursting. We brainstorm ideas to create layers within the bubbles so if one were to burst there would be another layer behind it to save it. Also the atmosphere was difficult because the record was done in Beijing China during the cold winter. We needed to come up with a solution that would not cause it to freeze.

Are there any world record titles you haven’t achieved yet but one day hope to? If so, what are they?

So far it seems as though we have beaten and achieved as many world record titles you can possibly imagine. But because we have come up with many designs and creations there are still endless ideas. Personally I would love to include something with animals and bubbles.

Do you have a favourite part in the production? What does it involve and why did you choose this one?

This is a difficult question because each segment in the show has its own special element. But if I had to pick I would say my favourite part is the Bubble-LaserFX that is at the end of the show. This segment is only done by me or my brother since my parents are unable to do it. It’s a segment that has me manipulating lasers while being surrounded with bubbles. The effects of the lasers and the bubbles gives off a sparkling effect which looks phenomenal hence why we saved the best for last.

Is bubble magic like regular magic insofar as does a bubble magician ever reveal how to do their tricks?

The bubble magic is not like regular magic. I can show you how to do the trick and explain it to you but once I put you to the test you may have some difficulties. The only thing we cannot reveal is the secret ingredients to our solution (laughs).

Is there anything else you’d like to tell The AU Review about the Gazillion Bubble Show or future works?

The Gazillion Bubble Show is very visual, explaining it can only do so much. You have to see it for yourself to be amazed. This show definitely brings the kid out in everyone regardless of age. I am extremely thrilled to be coming to Australia to share the beauty and art of bubbles with Australian audiences.


Gazillion Bubble Show plays the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Canberra Theatre, Sydney’s Theatre Royal and Adelaide’s Festival Theatre in June and July. For ticketing information please consult the individual venue’s website. For more information on the Gazillion Bubble Show visit:

Originally published on 6 May 2016 at the following website:

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Dappled Cities’ Tim Derricourt has already dipped his toes into side-project waters with the release of two EPs under the moniker Swimwear.

His latest, High Summer, offers up a book-end to the previous Low Summer EP and also celebrates the hot season with some bittersweet dance music via indie-pop sounds.

The songs are not a huge departure from the Dappled Cities style, all sounding like they’ve been orchestrated by someone who has dug through old vinyl recordings by David Bowie and the Pet Shop Boys. ‘Heartbroken’ sounds quite warm and joyful considering the track’s dour title, and gives a good indication of Derricourt’s desire to mix up tone and style. On ‘Great Leaps Forward’, his voice vacillates between a quivering falsetto and a deeper croon over the top of some shimmery beats-driven pop.

‘Closer’ is the EP’s most unique track, where the sound of Django Django is mashed with repetitive computer bleeps and bloops before the piece rapidly diverts towards the beautiful terrain hinted at in New Order’s ‘Elegia’.

High Summer is like that blissful moment just before the bartender calls for last drinks. It’s a relaxed, sweet and gorgeous place where the night feels so grand that it has the potential to go on forever.

Originally published on 23 March 2016 at the following website:

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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:

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They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but a certain Maremma certainly got a new job in the small, Victorian town of Warrnambool. The Italian sheepdog was used to guard the town’s dwindling population of penguins. It was such a success it was declared a modern-day miracle or fairy-tale and the film Oddball tells this fascinating story in a pleasant but prosaic manner.

The film is the debut feature by veteran TV director, Stuart McDonald (who is best known for his work with Chris Lilley). The movie is loosely based on the real-life events that happened to an eccentric chicken farmer named Swampy Marsh, who is played here as a big, loveable teddy bear by Shane Jacobson (Kenny). It’s an interesting story but this film doesn’t always do it justice because at times it requires a large suspension of disbelief to get over all the plot contrivances and the very neatly stitched-together ending.

The wonderful, Sarah Snook plays Marsh’s daughter and a penguin conservationist. She injects some vital energy into the piece but at times is a tad underutilised. The same can also be said about the strange dog-catcher, the funny comedian, Frank Woodley and the town’s mayor, who is played by the delightful, Deborah Mailman. Marsh’s cute granddaughter Olivia is played by Coco Jack Gillies (Mad Max: Fury Road) and is a good sparring partner to her Pop.

The film is a little clumsy at times but it does tell the story of ten or so penguins who were living on Middle Island and how they needed help to stay alive so that the place could remain open as a sanctuary.  It was no mean feat as the population had been decimated from thousands to handfuls by rogue foxes. There were also other villains to be found, each possessing their own hidden agendas. But despite this, Oddball is a warm and likeable family fable.

The Blu-ray edition’s special features include five long featurettes. These look at the real Oddball and the Maremma shepherd dog in general. There is also lots of information about the penguins, the township of Warrnambool and the predators and pests we can count in Australia’s flora and fauna. These are very educational and include interviews with historians, conservationists and Warrnambool’s former town mayor. These could have been edited down a little as they do clock in at around the five hour mark in total and because some features include the same snippets of interviews as the previous ones, which can get a little tedious.

Oddball is a charming little Australian film about a photogenic dog and some pretty little penguins. The animals and the town absolutely shine and the photography of the 12 Apostles is exquisite. The actors mostly put in good performances (although occasionally these can be a little hammy) but they are let down at times by some problems with the script. In sum, this is a movie the family can enjoy because it’s a magical and positive tale about some admirable dogs who worked hard to save the sweet, local inhabitants of Middle Island. It’s good but the film is ultimately missing some magic pixie dust.

Originally published on 24 January 2016 at the following website:

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Oh you pretty things. As Hyde Park’s Sydney Festival Village heaved with people paying their last respects to the one and only David Bowie, a little band from New Zealand played a nice venue called the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent. They were The Chills and they played a set that was brimming with beautiful, indie pop music.

This little group that could have had their fair share of ups and downs over the years. For some time this was the primary vehicle for the final remaining, founding member and songwriter, Martin Phillipps. Their recent album, Silver Bullets has seen a return to form, with the current line-up having played together for approximately a decade and also managing to capture some of that magic, Dunedin sound that fans of the Flying Nun record label talk about with much admiration and respect.

This evening was as much about celebrating the strong new comeback album as it was about celebrating the old songs. There were some punters that would have been hearing all of these tracks live for the very first time. This is not a band that has toured Australia often which is a shame, as they put on a rather sweet show to say the least.

The set started with the lush “Night of Chill Blue”. It was one pretty and sublime song that set the tone for the remainder of the evening. Phillipps’ creations straddle the lines between shimmering love songs that echo with a bittersweet quality as well as having their fair share of moments where they delve into the deep and meaningful world of social issues and politics. It’s a heady mix that can see Phillipps declaring his ability to fall in love one moment in a song like “Wet Blanket”, and then take pot shots at the U.S. later on in “America Says Hello”.

The group were a tight one where the complex and jangly guitar riffs worked together with the keys and the violin played by Erica Scally. The latter created a very atmospheric tone, full of different textures and techniques. New songs “Aurora Corona”, “I Can’t Help You” and “Warm Waveform” were all well received and fitted well alongside older favourites like “House With A Hundred Rooms”. The music was very vibrant and youthful and could have been played by artists several decades younger than the front man. It also meant the tunes wouldn’t be out-of-place on a playlist alongside the likes of R.E.M., The Church or even Cloud Control.

The Chills played some great kaleidoscopes of swirling pop at Sydney Festival and more than one of their self-proclaimed ‘heavenly pop hits’. The set was a fitting batch of songs for a warm, summer night and while the group have never reached the upper echelons or levels of the Thin White Duke being celebrated nearby, they’d certainly found their niche and entertained one happy, sold-out Sydney crowd. The Chills finished up with “Rolling Moon” and left people feeling joyful and basking in their opulent pop tunes. It was just gorgeous.

Originally published on 18 January 2016 at the following website:

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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:

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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:

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Collaborations aren’t supposed to work. They’re generally naff or cringe worthy otherwise you wouldn’t have people like Franz Ferdinand and Sparks going and singing about the fact.

When Tim Rogers and The Bamboos came together in 2012 and made ‘I Got Burned’ more than a few people would’ve dismissed this as a happy accident or fluke. But now they’ve gone and created an excellent live show and a vibrant album to match.

The show at the Metro was supported by singer-songwriter, Ainslie Wills. This songstress had a beguiling voice and her sound was a sweet pop/rock blend that soared.

There is nothing subtle about Tim Rogers and The Bamboos, but they blend so well. The You Am I frontman brought the cool, rock star swagger while the group brought a real visceral sense of soulfulness.

Kylie Auldist’s voice was a virtual powerhouse that upstaged Roger’s loose and crooning falsetto on more than one occasion. Frontman, Lance Ferguson was the glue holding the music together and Rogers was the biggest diva, looking dapper in a suit before changing into a gold lamé jacket mid-set.

The group’s rich funk and bombast could be heard in ‘S.U.C.C.E.S.S’. It was a storming, war cry and whirlwind of raw power. For ‘The Rules of Attraction’ things were paired back, allowing this one to be an enjoyable and soft pop song about L.O.V.E.

The artists encouraged a whole lot of grooving and shaking and this was most certainly the case in ‘Me & The Devil’. The song was already rocking the crowd with its twisty bass and a catchy melody that sounded like it could have been taken from the theme tune to a spy film. But then the guys went and segued off into Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ y’know just in case you didn’t get the memo about dancing.

The ghosts of James Brown and Michael Jackson would’ve smiled upon these Aussies when they played the soulful pop of ‘Handbreak’. ‘Better off Alone’ meanwhile, was a jubilant, break-up song that was a really fun surprise.

The musical coupling of Tim Rogers and The Bamboos was all about having a large musical party together. The artists enjoyed themselves at all times, like when they were trying to teach us that good things had never come simply in a track like ‘Easy’ or when they were covering and owning the You Am I hit ‘Heavy Heart’. The latter got the full band treatment and was a real highlight and lost none of the power and emotion of the original song, which is no mean feat.

The Bamboos and Tim Roger’s Sydney show was by no means a perfect one and there were a few minor lulls but overall, these artists did a fabulous job of making the audience feel really happy and giving them ample opportunities to shake their tail feathers. It basically meant that whoever said collaborations don’t work just hasn’t been part of the mirth, madness and merriment that is a show by Tim Rogers and The Bamboos.

Originally published on 22 June 2015 at the following website:

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