Restrung release

Killing Music (Topology)

Metro Arts, New Benner Theatre 

October 15

Brisbane’s Restrung Festival offer of three days of exhilarating music performances, visual art, workshops and conversations offers a valuable opportunity to showcase the city’s celebrated and emerging talents in bespoke events, unique collaborations and bold new works. It only seems fit, therefore, that its program includes a show from Topology, one of the country’s finest contemporary ensembles whose original, innovative theatrical performances have been showcasing their work since 1997.

“Killing Music” serves dual purpose; it both offers a collective post-2020 release and prompts a renewed, optimistic energy, and this is reflected in its setlist. After a moving Welcome to Country by Aunty Delmae Barton and William Barton, things kick off with the excitement of the show’s electronica-esque title track. In what then follows, the group’s distinct sounds feature in an evocative mix of piano, strings and sax, made all the more appealing by the intimacy of its New Benner Theatre staging, which allows us to experience that talents of  Principal Artists John Babbage (composer/saxophone), Robert Davidson (composer/bass) Christa Powell (violin), Bernard Hoey (composer/viola) and also Liam Viney on keyboard, up close.

Iconic previous works from the indie classical quintet’s extensive repertoire also features throughout, however, it is an eclectic mix of numbers and surprising combinations of genres that ensures a nice balance between considerations for the heart and mind as we are in-turn challenged, uplifted, entertained and reassured by its landscapes. In the necessary interests of light and shade there’s a strings-heavy version of the Saints’ punk anthem of alienation, ‘(I’m) Stranded’ and also laid-back instrumental and easily-recognisable sounds of a ‘tortured remix’ tribute to Cold Chisel’s ‘Cheap Wine’, entitled ‘Whinging Tweet’, double definition style. Meanwhile, the glorious angry energy of Julia Gillard’s impassioned misogyny speech set to classical music, as featured in “Unrepresentative Swill”, is nicely balanced by the essential wistful sadness of John Babbage’s ‘Lost at Sea’, bedded on a slew of slow meditative piano and string sounds. And it is always lovely to revisit previous Topology experiences such as ‘Static’ from the group’s 2014 ‘70s instrumental opera ‘Share House’.

The specially-curated collection of Topology tunes that is “Killing Music” is likely to be the group’s final show in Brisbane this year, and, as always, it certainly leaves audience members awaiting what the innovative collective will turn their creative attention to next. In the meantime, however, Killing Music is now available for streaming or as physical CD through the group’s website.

Celebrating Creedence

Creedence Clearwater Inspired Featuring Proud Mary

QPAC, Concert Hall

June 18

Friday was a night of contrast at QPAC; while Lyric Theatre audiences were being drawn into the graceful fairy-tale world of Queensland Ballet’s “The Sleeping Beauty”, next door in The Concert Hall, attendees were rocking back to a time when Creedence Clearwater Revival was the soundtrack of a generation. For two hours, “Creedence Clearwater Inspired Featuring Proud Mary” pays tribute to the prolific American band and its six platinum album contribution to the cannon of popular music in a manner that is infectious in its appeal from its very first number.

Beginning with the gravelly ode to the New Orleans area, ‘Born on the Bayou’, CCR’s 1969 Woodstock set opener, audience expectations are immediate met, both musically and thematically. Things blast along from here, though the quartet’s cover of ‘Suzie Q’ from the band’s self-assured self-titled debut album and hits such as the playful ‘Lookin’ Our My Back Door’, the jaunty ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and the funky ‘Down On The Corner’, crescendoing in energy and volume in a charging ‘Molina’, erupting the balcony audience in particular into full party mode.

The show, which features a line-up of extraordinary Australian rock musicians, is high-energy in its faithful recreation of the sound and feel of CCR at the height of their fame. Indeed, they not only effectively rework some of CCR’s longer arrangements into versions that work in a live show, but they maintain the integrity of the swampy sounds of John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, throughout. Depth is also added to the grass-roots anthems though the Concert Hall’s lush lighting accompaniment, which bathes the venue appropriately for ‘Green River’, while the tempo changes and dramatic instrumentation of ‘Ramble Tamble’ are signposted by in-sync lighting throughout the stalls, making for an even more dynamic experience.

“Creedence Clearwater Inspired Featuring Proud Mary” may have a running time of 2 hours 20 minutes (including interval), but it appears to be over in what seems like the shortest of times, so engaging is its appreciation of the magnificence that is the entire Creedence Clearwater Revival catalogue. Highlights include an intense ‘Fortunate Son’ late in Act Two and quintessential and signature CCR song, the melodic ‘Proud Mary’, as part of a rousing encore, drawing audience members appropriately to their feet.

W.A. based Creedence Clearwater Revival Tribute band Proud Mary features the internationally renowned founding members of five-time ARIA Award winning ‘90s rock icons Baby Animals (bass guitarist Eddie Parise and drummer Frank Celeza), along with frontman Ryan Rafferty and lead guitarist Paul Cushing. And rather than focussing on costuming and choreography in recreation, Proud Mary is all about the music, making it impressive to both true fans and casual listeners alike. Their musicianship is superb throughout. In particular, Rafferty’s gritty voice layers numbers with emotive power while Cushing is formidable in fierce guitar solos such as in lick of ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’.

“Creedence Clearwater Inspired Featuring Proud Mary” is the first full-scale concert in Australia dedicated to celebrating the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival and appropriately, the celebration of the hugely influential band is an unforgettable live music experience. It’s authentic re-creation and first-rate musicianship in and of itself, make the brand new concert a huge and hugely-entertaining night out, that you don’t have to be a fan or of baby-boomer vintage to feel. Indeed, Fogerty’s song lyric commentaries about Woodstock, Vietnam and youthful rebellion may have captured the era’s mood, but they are simple and direct enough to resonate across the ages. And the inclusion of his more whimsical ‘Rock and Roll Girls’ along with Status Quo’s poppy ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ (written by Fogerty) along with CCR’s iconic numbers only add additional interest and reasons to do yourself a favour and get a ticket.

Photos c/o – Justine Walpole

Sunshine state sounds

Sunshine Sounds

Brisbane Powerhouse

November 29

After the year that has been, everyone is in need of some sunshine and succour to their soul so the return to the magic of live music with Brisbane Powerhouse’s “Sunshine Sounds” is a particularly welcome Sunday afternoon session. The show, which features renowned artists Katie Noonan, Louise King and Andrea Kirwin in concert, represents the last in the performers’ mini tour and a wonderful opportunity for Brisbane audiences to share in their stories of music and friendship.

Every singer songwriter has a coronavirus song, Fijian Australian soul songsmith Andrea Kirwin safely assumes before sharing her own ‘We Shall Overcome’, assurance that the sun will come shining through. Topical as its content may be, its realisation appears typical of the independent artist’s heartfelt folk and blues-style musical stories. Indeed, the prolific festival performer has an earthy sound that sees her soulful sounds soothing us into the afternoon with the show’s over-all-too-soon opener ‘Young Wild and Free’.

Kirwin has a warm stage presence and a compelling calm that charms the audience through between-song festival stories and reflections about her artform. When she shares her take of Tracey Chapman’ ‘Give Me One Reason’, however, the distinctive guitar melody is base to both initially gentle verse and a growing daring and defiant energy. Her versatility is further evident when she is joined on stage by internationally renowned cellist Louise King for an inspiring ‘Bloom’, the title track of Kirwin’s new album and emotionally-captivating ‘Love Will Save the Day’ tribute to Brisbane Pride and the belief that love can find a way.

Continuing the coronavirus theme, five-times ARIA Award winning and seven-times platinum selling singer/songwriter Katie Noonan talks about the disempowerment of hotel quarantine in introduction to her new number ‘Golden Light’ and its reflection of the gift of gratitude that this year has provided. And its repeated ‘let me adore you again’ tribute to her husband is spine-tingling in the exquisiteness of her vocal range and intonation.

Amongst original numbers, Noonan takes us back to the early 90s courtesy of an independent feminist Brisbane folk band Isis number and also applies her opera-like vocals to another suitable COVID-19 tune, Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, albeit paired back to be presented as an emotional piano ballad of heartbreaking longing to break free from loneliness and isolation, in call-back to her recent Brisbane Festival show, “The Sweetest Taboo”.

King has also used COVID-19 time to work on her craft, the contemporary classical musician tells us, before bringing the beauty and diversity of music written for cello to our ears. The biggest surprise is not the instrument’s beauty, however, but King’s illustration of its remarkable vitality and versatility through soothing laments, blue grass sentiment and First Nations’ sounds alike.

Though the Queensland women all have their own distinct sets, time is also included to celebrate the very up-and-coming talent of 11-year-old Layla Barnett who wows the audience with a beautifully serene delivery of Noonan’s former band George’s debut single, ‘Special Ones’. It really is an afternoon of celebration appropriately surmised in a final collaborative ‘I Am Woman’ affirmation and tribute to Helen Reddy. So, thanks to funding as part of the Queensland Government’s Arts and Cultural Recovery Package, the production not only allows three acclaimed performers to share their talent, but introduces us to that of an outstanding young newcomer.

Sweet ’80s sounds

The Sweetest Taboo (Katie Noonan)

The Tivoli

September 19 – 20

Like our first kiss or heartbreak, we all remember the first albums we bought with our own money. Maybe they were something reflectively cringy or perhaps, like Katie Noonan, they were purchased from somewhere cool like Rocking Horse Records in Adelaide Street. Returning to her beloved genre of jazz, Noonan presents this as the organising centre of her show “The Sweetest Taboo”, in which reinterpretations of classic ‘80s songs that shaped her life are presented with her band (Zac Hurren on saxophone, Aaron Jansz on drums and brothers OJ and Steve Newcome on double bass and piano respectively) in a manner that carefully curates the show’s numbers to new life.

From A-ha clip astonishment to hairbrush Queen Cyndi Lauper singalongs, there is much with which audiences of a certain vintage can identify as Noonan anecdotes about the music that has accompanied her journey from opera to jazz, even if it sometimes takes a few moments for gasps of recognition to ripple through the appreciative crowd. And even though some of her early musical heroes are a little unexpected with a set list that includes numbers from, for example, Crowded House, Vince Jones and U2, they somehow all smooth together in the sweetest of ways.

For those unfamiliar, the show takes the audience through the track listing of a new album of old songs, Noonan’s 20th studio album of the same name, which offers interpretation of pop favourites from the Aria Award winning performers formative years. Stripped back readings allow her astonishing voice the centre stage it demands. From the opening strands of a serene and sensitive ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, the extraordinary beauty of her vocal instrument is undeniable and the time she takes to allow every note to linger, leaves us in no question as to the rarity of her talent. And while numbers like Terrence Trent D’Arby’s soulful gem ‘Sign Your Name’ are stirring in their sultriness, upbeat ones like Icehouse’s ‘Electric Blue’, reimagined with a laid-back Latin flavour and the infectious melodic fun of Eurythmics’ ‘When Tomorrow Comes’ add much to the show’s texture. ‘

Noonan is a generous performer and audience experience is enhanced by her share of the stage with the other musicians. Every artist is given their moment to shine. Most notably, Steve Newcomb makes Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ an especially relevant emotional piano ballad of heartbreaking longing to break free from loneliness and isolation, while Zac Hurren’s saxophone beautifully completes Billy Joel’s ‘Just the Way You Are’, because what is an ‘80s show without a good slap of wailing saxophone solo?

What Katie Noonan has created in “The Sweetest Taboo” is a wonderful place where loving daggy ‘80s love songs and Man of Colours Iva Davies double leather no longer have to be a guilty secret. Stunning vocals and musical rearrangements make for moving reconnection with songs of an era whose music deserves celebration, appropriately now in a grown-up jazz way. More so though, the stripped back ‘80s pop hits have an emotional honesty to their lyrics that might otherwise be missed, so experience allows not only reconnection to our past selves but reconsideration of our own musical tapestries.

Wonderland walk

Fire Walk with Us (Electric Moon)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

November 24

76176211_3508926052465720_6807027413264891904_o.jpg

There is a distinct feel to the “Twin Peaks” otherworld, captured in the aesthetic of The Powerhouse Theatre during the venue’s Wonderland Festival, despite the still-afternoon sunshine outside. The saturation of lighting creates an unsettling sense of warmth at odds with the constant menace lurking in the underbelly of what was a unique television experience, but it makes it all the easier to be enthralled into the intriguing journey that is Electric Moon’s “Fire Walk with Us” live re-imagining of songs and music from the iconic, instant-hit “Twin Peaks” mystery, horror, drama television series of early 1990s.

78467424_3508908545800804_3238222581735620608_o.jpg

As drowsy saxophone sounds lure the audience into the acclaimed score, the lush lighting captures the distinct mood of the show’s early numbers, despite a sometimes bothersome spotlight in audience eyes during Lucinda Shaw’s mesmeric ‘The World Spins’, in which she effortlessly channels the recognisable ‘low and slow’ signature Lynch sound texture in delivery of the spine-tingling memorable series number (it featured in a climactic second-season episode that revealed the killer of troubled prom queen Laura Palmer).

78426427_3508900122468313_6892567038493982720_o

The set list features a sampling of songs from the original iconic David Lynch series, the prequel film “Fire Walk with Me” and even an Alison St Ledger share of a Latin-infused ‘No Stars’ from the recent third series of the franchise, perfectly curated together in authentic album track listing sequence.

74483655_3508905552467770_6056572880055959552_o.jpg

Top-of-mind numbers like the soaring, airy ‘Nightingale’ and the signature theme song ‘Falling’ are there as highlights of floating, soft-focus, sweetly-serene vocals along with the spiralled frenzied jazz jams of the doomy ‘The Pink Room’ and the innocent sounds of ‘Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart’ (in juxtaposition to its deliciously dark lyrics).

74461744_3508910729133919_5797180825590038528_o.jpg

Indeed, it’s an eclectic mix of dream pop warbles and benchmark jazz bass lines and finger-snap rhythms, but it absolutely works in evoking the beauty, yearn, mystery and playfulness of everything “Twin Peaks”. ‘Just slow things down and it becomes more beautiful’, David Lynch once said and “Fire Walk with Us” is certainly testament to this in its evocation of many moods and a range of emotions.

78953230_3508894132468912_562238011052392448_o.jpg

A 12-piece ensemble of musicians works together to elevate experience of the Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch compositions to more than just backing for the four diverse vocalists Mia Goodwin, SS.Sebastian, Lucinda Shaw and Alison St Ledger, giving, for example, the surreal ‘Sycamore Trees’ an orchestral swell in sit against the song’s essential stillness. This means that whether part of the show’s devoted cult following or as a newcomer to the pop culture classic, there is much to be enticed by in the dreamy, dark, moody and emotional journey of the “Fire Walk with Us”. Its experience more than delivers on its promise to provide a masterclass in minimalist synthpop atmospheres, haunting vocals, occasionally off-kilter jazz stylings and sinister soundscapes.

Photos c/o – Jade Ellis Photography

007 sounds

The Music of James Bond

QPAC, Concert Hall

October 18

Ym3JQMiU.jpeg

“The Music of James Bond” begins, appropriately, with multi award-winning singer Kate Ceberano slinking onto the Concert Hall stage in a sparkling gown befitting her opening number, ‘Diamonds are Forever’. It is a look and belting sound very much suited to Shirley Bassey’s smash hit and with delivery of its tremendous expression, dramatic flair, soulful emotion and intrinsic glamour, the audience is easily assured as to the quality of the show to come. When Luke Kennedy appears to deliver a crisply crooned ‘From Russia with Love’ (stepping up from guest appearance role due to original performer Michael Falzon’s ill-health), the stage is well and truly set for an evening of entertainment in celebration of the spy film franchise’s music.

pEtuhNB0.jpeg

For over 50 years, the thrilling exploits of the world’s greatest spy have been accompanied by the world’s finest theme songs, making the night’s set-list a spoiled-for-choice scenario. With the full live symphonic sound of a 20-piece orchestra, every number is elevated in its experience, especially our revisit of the ubiquitous main signature James Bond theme, which allows for audience appreciation of how its instruments layer atop each other and especially of its percussive notes and the distinctive rhythm of its famous guitar riff.

As thorough as the Bond theme collection is, however, time is also taken to visit some other spies with a dynamic instrumental “Mission Impossible” theme, complete with rollicking urban samba sounds, and jaunty “The Spy Who Shagged Me” spoof theme song. Even Kate Ceberano’s own ‘Untouchable’, written with Paul Kelly, makes an appearance within the repertoire as her version of a Bond song.

The comprehensive catalogue of the Bond collection means that we hear the songs of a range of artists over the course of the evening… Gladys Night, Nancy Sinatra, KD Lang and Carly Simon, amongst others, and experience songs in a range of styles. From the light touch of Burt Bacharach’s ‘The Look of Love’ delivered in duet, complete with a little cha cha across the stage, to the bombastic rock of Paul McCartney’s epic ‘Live and Let Die’, orchestrations are a treat for the ear, aesthetically enhanced by gorgeous stage lighting.

z7NetqxA.jpeg

“The Music of James Bond” has all the ingredients for a superb, nostalgic celebration of an iconic film franchise, starting with its ‘quantum of soloists’, conducted by Mr 007 himself, the always charismatic Guy Noble, who bring the brilliant arrangements of the world’s finest theme songs to life. They add a light touch but also symphonic grandeur to Kennedy’s romantic ‘For Your Eyes Only’ and pair Ceberano’s powerful ‘Goldfinger’ with lush brassy orchestrations and horn sounds.

Zl0ebJts.jpeg

Ceberano is sensational. Her vocals are on-point, making for many standout moments, such as her ballad ‘Skyfall’, in which she succeeds in making abstract lyrics emotionally moving. Kennedy, too, delivers some tender moments in ‘Writing’s on the Wall’, although it is his Act Two opener, catchy ‘80s classic ‘A View to a Kill’ (the only Bond song to hit Number One of the charts) that serves as the real highlight, full of dancey fun and very Duran Duran.

With all of its components considered, “The Music of James Bond” cannot be anything but a joyous experience of shared celebration of timeless hits. Its only pity is its one night only programming.

Photos c/o – Darren Thomas