Wild at Heart (Ellen Reed)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre
If you don’t know of Ellen Reed, you should. “The Voice” 2016 grand finalist has big, bold red hair and an ever bigger, bolder unapologetic voice. And in her cabaret show “Wild at Heart”, its magnificent power is on display right from the opening number, the original titular song. Original numbers pepper the performance, which creates a mostly engaging ebb and flow to the evening as she takes audiences on a journey, for example, from the poignant delivery of ‘Stars’, full of genuine, painfully-honest lyrics, to a much grungier share of Bruno Mars’ raunchy ‘Gorilla’.
Act One flies by (#inagoodway), especially as she revisits and redefines moments from her television journey, including the soulful, sentimental ballad ‘Stone Cold’ and an emotional performance of P!nk’s pop ballad ‘Perfect’ (which sealed her spot in the Grand Finale). Things rock on as she puts her personal twist on Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ (the huge song that landed her the final spot on Team Jessie J in the show’s blind audition phase), in a number that showcases the blistering band, particularly Justin Bliss on bass and Mik Easterman on drums.
Things bang back also in Act Two with songs including her triumphant take of Jess Glynne’s ‘Hold My Hand’, featuring the stage awash in yellow in some of the best lighting even seen in the Powerhouse Theatre. From the intimacy of Rhiannon’s ‘Diamonds’ to the feistiness of Sheryl Crow’s ‘My Favorite Mistake’, Reed’s energy never wanes in showcase of her adaptability. And her skill for self-effacing storytelling in between select numbers only adds to her appeal as a performer.
When things slow down with her take of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’, the audience knows that the show’s end is regrettably not far away. Yet there is still much to be made from the show’s final numbers. When she sings ‘Ain’t Nobody’ the crowd appropriately erupts in the euphoria of its rocking realisation, including a shared energy that sees even the ushers dancing with abandon and leaves everyone in want of more.
It is entirely appropriate that Reed should appear as part of The Brisbane Powerhouse’s Wonderland festival, given the dynamic Queensland singer/songwriter’s powerhouse voice. “Wild at Heart” certainly showcases her vocal range and versatility, alternating as she does between belting out verses and delivering others with stunning softness. With just enough edginess to move her away from bland middle of the road territory, she makes so many songs memorable and familiar, meaning that ‘ain’t nobody’ can stop her.