Women of Woodstock (Women in Voice)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre
July 19 – 21
1969 was an eventful year of cultural change marked by the moon landing, New York’s Stonewall riots and of course the now-legendary Woodstock festival. The 3-day, 33-act festival at a dairy farm near Woodstock in New York, which attracted ten times its expected crowd of 40 000 festival-goers, is of course well known as being a pivotal moment in popular music history, as well as the definitive nexus for the larger counterculture generation. So its fiftieth anniversary is certainly appropriate for celebration by Brisbane’s much-loved Women in Voice.
The first song we hear in revisit and reflection on the music of the greats, Joni Mitchell’s contemplative counterculture anthem, ‘Woodstock’ captures the idealistic three days of peace and music mood akin to a spiritual journey where ‘everywhere was a song and a celebration’… until Women in Voice veteran, the always entertaining, Leah Cotterell bursts forth with an infectiously energetic and explosive ‘Somebody to Love’ and the party really gets rockin’.
Depending on their vintage, audience members may not necessarily be familiar with all of the San Francisco-esq psychedelic sound makers, however, numbers like Joe Cocker’s bluesy and emotionally passionate ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’ make up for this and, regardless, there is no denying the talent on stage, both in the live band’s (headed by Jamie Clark) musical support and the show’s vocalists.
As part of her tribute to Dylan-era guitar singers such as Melanie Safka, Jacqueline Marshall gives a hauntingly melancholic version of the formidable transcendent ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and Adelina Martinez’s share of Joan Baez’s seemingly-simple ‘Love is Just a Four-Letter Word’ is folksy but also beautifully bird-like. Indeed, there is a tenderness and emotional sincerity to her songs that allows for concentration of their lyrical messages. Hannah Grondin’s angstsy numbers alone are worth the price of admission. In a show highlight, she delivers a gut-wrenchingly powerful, powerhouse number ‘To Love Someone’, with legendary performer Janis Joplin’s familiar fire and then there is her energetic ‘Piece of My Heart’, which has the audience at peak enjoyment.
Women in Voice’s homage to the iconic women who performed at the festival that defined a generation is not just a testament to the power of point-in-politically-tumultuous-time unity, but as it emerges, significant in its highlight of the urgency of its themes of peace and freedom that still exist now. It is also about the lasting power of music and a reminder of some of this city’s outstanding local vocal talent, acknowledged in its deserved standing ovation.