Bush best

In The Warm Room – The Music of Kate Bush 1978 – 1980 (Electric Moon)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

June 9

josh daveta

When a show is billed as “the voices of eight seasoned cabaret performers will shine Bush’s creativity, imagination and innovation”, expectations are high. Appropriately so, given Electric Moon’s previous shows, and as-anticipated, realised from its opening, beautifully-mournful number, ‘Moving’, by Josh Daveta, with ethereal additions from Bethan Ellsmore. And then there is Alison St Ledger who sounds just like the iconic and unique artist in the meta-music ‘Wow’.

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It is not all whimsical, however, with Daniel Hack rocking ‘Don’t Push Your Foot on the Heartbreak’. Indeed, there is something for everyone, from everyone; the stage is cluttered with collaborators (#inagoodway) and the show is all the better for it. The ten piece band, for example, does an excellent job in evoking a variety of moods and genre influences, as eclectic as its source songstress’ musical catalogue.

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Highlights include Daveta’s rollicking ‘Oh to be in Love’ and a haunting ‘’Oh England My Lionheart’ from an imposing (as always) Sandro Colarelli. And there is also Lucinda Shaw’s guttural ‘The Kick Inside’ and later symphonic post-apocalyptic ‘Breathing’, and a wonderful ‘Wuthering Heights’ from Bethan Ellsmore, in nod to Bush’s trademark cinematic and literary references and as example of Ellsmore’s vocal prowess.

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In each instance, the songs in the warm room are almost shared anew as the performers each bring something different to bringing out Kate Bush’s very best. But one would expect no less from Sandro Colarelli, Lisa Crawley, Josh Daveta, Bethan Ellsmore, Daniel Hack, Lucinda Shaw and Alison St Ledger… the best bringing out Bush’s best in make of an infectiously-entertaining evening.

Photos c/o – Lachlan Douglas

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Hedwigging out

Hedwig 15 (Electric Moon in partnership with Brisbane Queer Film Festival and Brisbane Powerhouse)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

January 28

Sometimes it takes seeing a movie on big screen to truly appreciate its greatness. And “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a great movie, iconic in its incredible tell of an ‘internationally ignored’ rocker from communist East Berlin who sings about his manhood being cut off in a messy operation, hence the title of both the film and the  band of Eastern-bloc musicians with whom Hansel, now Hedwig, tours the pit stops of America. Its screening and concert performance, “Hedwig 15” (in gala celebration of its 15th anniversary) as part of Brisbane Powerhouse’s Melt Festival celebration of queer arts and culture is reminder not only of its hilarity, but its soundtrack of explosive glam/punk sensibility.

Regardless of the still-light-outside starting time, sisters, brothers, misfits and all the others unite in celebration of the immortal white trash style icon with some even dressing in homage to the genderqueer singer. Certainly this is a unique event, complete with packets of gummy bears (in nod to American sugar-daddy soldier Luther’s enticement) placed about the stalls, a bar within the theatre and encouragement for audience members to move about during the show.

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And then, before the film’s credits have even finished rolling, the concert section of the show belts into being with Bertie Page’s take on ‘Tear Me Down’, which opens the soundtrack and sets the scene for Hedwig’s journey, starting as a slip of a girlyboy behind the Berlin Wall. Sando Colarelli too, brings a brazen rock energy to the liberating anthem ‘Angry Inch’, recreating the song’s vocals and later capturing the film’s essence of rock excess in a soon-to-be-torn-off chrysalis-like costume of plastic sheeting.

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The soundtrack alternates rock ballads and reminiscences as Hedwig searches for completion and a fully realised sense of self on road to becoming an ‘internationally ignored song stylist’ and things slow down to the more melodic during ‘Wig in a Box’, arguably the film’s musical pinnacle, during which Josh Daveta sings of Hedwig’s comfort in the transforming power of wigs, make-up and rock music with masterful vocals. Lucinda Shaw, too, brings impressive vocal energy and emotional resonance to the fiercely determined ‘The Origin of Love’ and its deeply tender explanation of the desperate desire to become whole and connected with other humans. And her share of the soundtrack’s anthemic reconciliatory final song, ‘Midnight Radio’, is simply sublime in its toast to world’s enigmatic souls and the power of being our authentic selves.

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The show’s killer soundtrack is skilfully supported by an all-star band led by James Lees with Shiv Zimmermann, John Meyer, Kevin Haigh and Parmis Rose, which allows each performer to bring their own artistry and embodiment of Hedwig’s characteristics to their selections. James Halloran, for example, is emotionally vulnerable in ‘The Long Grift’, a song that didn’t make the movie cut in its entirety but is a worthy inclusion for its highlight of how, during Hedwig’s vendetta against former partner Tommy, she becomes blinded to the feelings of the loved ones around her.

In the hands of Electric Moon, it is easy to see why this soundtrack has gained such a cult-status since its humble beginnings as a stage musical before movie. With only a ten song setlist, the ‘In Concert’ section of the show is over way too soon, much like Electric Moon’s last, “Ziggy Stardust”, outing. Still, its essential, sincere themes linger past its punk sensibilities with message about the hope of turning misfortune into personal power and celebration of the unique.

“Hedwig 15” like its namesake inspiration is rich in imagination and daring. The songs are explosive in their exploration of the ideas of ideology, love and destiny and they are delivered with the raw power and emotion required to have audience members on their feet Hedwigging-out in dance and sway with abandon at just 8pm, in mutual celebration of fact that we all either are or can be Hedwig.

Stardust sensation

Ziggy Stardust (Electric Moon)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

June 4

It is often said that the simple ideas can be the best. And Electric Moon’s “Ziggy Stardust” is evidence of this. The show, returned to the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the Queensland Cabaret Festival, takes audiences on a glam rock journey though performance of a masterpiece David Bowie album in its entirety.

Bowie’s 1972 concept album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (often shortened to Ziggy Stardust) is a seminal work, consistently considered one of the greatest albums of all time. Its popularity is confirmed by this show’s sold-out and additional performances, both as part of the Cabaret Festival and in its Melt Queer Arts Festival appearance earlier in the year.

The appeal is understandable. The album includes a string of hits, all of which appear in this rock ‘n; roll cabaret spectacular, performed by a stellar who’s who cast of Brisbane musicians20 performers including eight lead vocalists and a dynamic array of 12 musicians playing: strings, percussion, woodwind and rocking lead guitars.

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The songs tell the tale of Bowie’s alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a rock star who acts as a messenger for extra-terrestrial beings. It begins with Lucinda Shaw’s Five Years’ about the looming end of the world, which she bulids into a chaotic crescendo. It is an epic introduction that sets up showcase for the particularly impressive female talent on show. Emma Dean is ethereal in her gentle but stirring ‘Starman’ and Alison St Ledger serves up a solid ‘It Ain’t Easy’, capturing its comparative darkness and rock sensibility.

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And then there is the newcomer to the group, Maria DeVita, whose infectious, full throttle rock and roll energy is explosive in ‘Hang on to Yourself’ as she thrashes about the stage with Joan Jett punk attitude. And also of note is the Pivitol ‘Ziggy Stardust’, which introduces Daniel Hack’s extraordinary vocals, including moments when his voice mimics the compelling drama of Bowie’s unique sound.

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From start to finish, “Ziggy Stardust” is a show of passion and artistry, polished to perfection. Director James Lees has taken on a formidable task, especially following Bowie’s death and the show has accordingly become about honouring the artist as much as celebrating Ziggy and along with the album. There is presentation also of other Bowie material including ‘The Jean Genie’, ‘Life on Mars’ and ‘All the Young Dudes’ amongst other hits, ending with the Allison St Ledger led ‘Heros’, one of Bowie’s most inspirational songs, delivered with emotional intensity in its haunting strings introduction and belting rock and roll finish.

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Although entertaining, these later sections lack the impact of the album’s numbers, which serve as celebration of sequencing as a whole as much as discrete song selections. It would be brilliant to see a show that instead chronicles through two albums, either side of an intermission. This is but a small suggestion for what is a fabulous show of this 1970s cultivated musical statement. “Ziggy Stardust” is a sensationally good time with the legacy of one of the greatest glittery superstars, that, like any good album, can be revisited again and again without disappointment.

Photos c/o –  https://www.facebook.com/electricmoonevents