Axe queens acknowledged

Girl & Guitar

Brisbane Powerhouse

March 24

It is an all too rare thing to see a girl and guitar taking centre stage, but when she does, you’re going to listen. And listen we do as Queensland Cabaret Festival’s “Girl & Guitar” blazes its way through a tribute to axe queens of the ages. Joined onstage by a mighty band, Kristy Apps, Pandora Karavan, Sarah Stockholm, Jackie Marshall, Georgie Nielsen and Megan Sarmardin spend 90 minutes taking their turn to pay homage to the female guitarists and vocalists who’ve blazed the trail and inspired new generations of artists, and the result is simply sensational, in its catalogue of songs, but also in and of itself.

The Powerhouse theatre is bathed in lush lighting appropriate to the varied sentiments of songs that range from the angsty to the sometimes surprisingly poignant. After a rebellious blast of ‘Cherry Bomb’ and electric Suzie Q sounds from Sarmardin, an early highlight comes in ‘rhinestone cowperson’ Karavan’s raw and real, acoustic but still impressively dramatic take on Amy Winehouse’s iconic ‘Back to Black’. Her conveyance of the number’s tough but soulful sounds and heartbreakingly-honest lyrics, sees its conclusion erupt the audience into acclaim. Indeed, her brassy voice is simply wonderful in transform of the song’s statements into powerful sentiments and her charismatic presence immediately warms her to the audience.

Kristy Apps’ set similarly features some powerful numbers, like a robust performance of Melissa Etheridge’s ‘Bring Me Some Water’, full of turbulence and ache. With a huge voice and driving guitar, she slays through classics like this and Patty Smyth’s ‘Because the Night’, with co-collaborators (and producer/director Allison St Ledger) in vocal accompaniment, such as it so often the case throughout the night.

Nielsen’s versatility takes audiences from the ripping guitar and screaming vocals of a high energy ‘Celebrity Skin’ to a slow and steady ‘Gimme All Your Love’ by Alabama Shakes. Later Marshall sooths us through a bare-bones, but incredibly passionate take on legendary folk singer Tracy Chapman’s anthemic ‘Talkin’ About A Revolution’ highlight as to the importance of speaking up against injustice. And how wonderful it is to hear forgotten classics such as in Sarmardin’s smooth take on Joan Armatrading’s energetic ‘Drop the Pilot’ and Stockholm’s capture of Suzanne Vega’s quiet, urgent storytelling genius in a pop-infused, but very much still guitar-based, ‘Solitude Standing’.

“Girl & Guitar” provides its eager audience a night of no-nonsense driving guitar and soul-stirring lyrics. Punchy vocals and punchier riffs result in a passionate evening that highlights the performers’ talents, but also reminds of the electrifying efforts of renegade axe queens through the ages. Girls and guitars form a formidable combination that deserves to be acknowledged over and over again in shows such as this. With its infectious celebration of the unadulterated joy that music can bring, whether it be from Tammy Wynette or Falling Joys, this is a show no music lover should miss.