Thursday, February 25, 2016


Gentlemen's Agreement

Mayall Room, Tuxedo Cat
11pm til Sat Feb 27

Melbourne stand-ups/comedians Nick Caddaye and Lisa-Skye are an odd couple. I mean, they are not a 'couple', but they are indeed odd. This two person sketch comedy show has some great juxtaposition between straight laced order of grumpy Caddaye and fluro haired Anarchy explosion Lisa-Skye's boundless enthusiasm. There is a bit of light audience participation (nothing to worry about) and a great line-in really well prepared sketches and ones where the wheels could fall off at any moment. I'm loathe to break down the particulars of any sketch shows performance but a trip over the River Styx and the fine products of Gary Gazebo, were highlights for me. Both performers are from Melbourne were their reputations are huge. Lisa-Skye is fast building a loyal fan-base in Adelaide and Caddaye is so fantastically likable despite his 'gruff' personae that he is doing the same. There is only a couple more shows, so do yourself a favour.  


Late Night Numbers & Letters
The Science Exchange (Exchange Place, Adelaide)
9:30pm til Sat Feb 27

The SBS TV show Numbers and Letters was much loved and clearly is still missed. Based on the UK show Countdown which is currently in it's 73rd season, it's a game show where people have to find words in collections of randomly selected letters and do maths equations with similarly random numbers while racing against the clock. It's the geek/nerds perfect game show. Now add comedians (and often alcohol) and you have Late Night Numbers & Letters. Returning for it's third year, Late Night has found an eager audience of dictionary challenging wordsmiths and calculating mathematicians. Hosted by lovable Melbourne curmudgeon, Nick Caddaye with guest comedian dictionary guardians and contestants each night, Late Night Numbers & Letters manages to stay close to the originals format and intent, while being utterly hilarious at the same time. Unlike the TV show there are actual prizes to be won. The Science Exchange is tucked away in Exchange Place in the city (enter from Pirie Street). 


Greg Fleet
These Things Happen
Rhino Room Beer Garden
7:30pm til Sunday Feb 28

There is something special about seeing Fleety at the Rhino Room. People may know that Rhino, Adelaide and the Adelaide Comedy Family has played an important role for Greg Fleet in the last few years. An environment that has helped him cope with his demons, be a safe and nurturing home base  at times and help spur a jag of creative output from an incredibly talented man. In the last couple of years Fleet has written and performed an award winning play (This is Not a Love Song), appeared in a great Zombie Movie (Me & My Mates Vs The Zombie Apocalypse), created a great TV show about the Australian comedy scene (Die Standing Up) and released an amazing memoir (These Things Happen) and continued to do great work as a stand-up comedian. The show tonight (which shares it's name with the book), in the intimate Rhino beer garden, is a great example of his masterful story telling.  Not afraid to tango with uncomfortable truths (of which he has many), Greg Fleet is a funny bugger and takes us on a bumpy roller coaster ride of vignettes from his life, observation and self examination. It's structure is more theatrical than straight stand up, there is much that is hilarious, but it works as a complete piece with the audience enraptured til it's completion when they erupt with heartfelt ovation. A sterling slice of masterful comedic work. Highly recommended.   

Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Evening With Darlene Love
Festival Theatre
June 20 2014
One show only.

You never know who you will be sitting next to at an event like this. I suspect the gentleman sitting next to me doesn't get out of the house much. On the stage one of the greatest singers of all time is singing, my neighbour is asking me "How old do you think she is?""This is a great song isn't?" and most annoyingly of all "I've never heard of this one. Do you know it? I've never heard of it.". After a while he tires of me not answering and gets back to his other favourite in concert pass time, singing along. This, he is determined to do, despite not know the right words.

Darlene Love is one of the great voices that define the 1960's. As part of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound.  She was the voice of The Crystals, Bob B Soxx & The Blue Jeans and the Blossoms and has sung with everybody from Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley (she is even on the '68 Comeback special) to Cheech & Chong (seriously! She does backing vocals on Basketball Jones). She also played Danny Glovers wife in the Lethal Weapon movies. As a solo artist she had some success but most people are here for the evergreen sounds of the 60's.

An impressive ten piece band and four backing vocalists, provide a suitable lush backing for powerhouse vocals of Ms Love, who at 72 can still sing people a fraction of her age under the table. Her voice is rich, full, it's powerful, soulful...brassy. Amazing pipes, and great legs, damn! Pipes and pins. And tonight seems to whiz by between doing most of those Spector era songs she is known for and some medleys by friends like Marvin Gaye and Roberta Flack. There are some good stories about people she has worked with.

Last year Darlene Love featured strongly in the amazing 20 feet From Fame, which won the Academy Award for best documentary. Love was the one that accepted the award on the night and one of  tonight's highlights is her take on the Bill Withers classic Lean on Me.         

The Phil Spector stories don't really go into too much detail of his famous mistreatment of his artists, but just the way she refers to him as 'Mr Spec-tor', tells a story of it's own. "Over the years, with Mr Spec-tor......I learned not to hate him or dislike him. Because I have places to go and people to meet and he is not here with us. He has been put away for life.". Like some other music greats, it is sometimes difficult to separate their crimes from their creative output. Do the child abuse allegations against Michael Jackson make Billie Jean any less of a brilliant song? Does Wesley Snipes going to jail for tax evasion make me like the Blade movies any less? And does Phil Spectors terrible treatment of his performers and ultimately the murder of a women in his home, make Be My Baby or Da Doo Ron Ron any less epic, timeless classic songs? The answer is no, It makes me have to do a little compartmentalizing in my brain when I hear those songs, I can love the song and loath the actions of the man. Spector was always eccentric and there are countless tales of him doing seemingly oddball or dangerous things (listening to the opening chord of Rock'n'Roll High School for 14 hours in a row, waving guns at people) that go from a bit weird to downright sinister in the light of his conviction. As Darlene says, he was a genius. He did incredible things and certainly gave her a career, but the implication is she is more than happy to never see him again, and that he will end his days in a prison cell. So when she does He's A Rebel, it's all about the glory of that song. The strident dismissal of negative feelings towards a teenage girls affection for her no-good-nik hoodlum boyfriend. She knows he is a rebel. She knows he's never, ever going be any good. She knows he's never, ever going do what he should. She knows, that just because he doesn't do what everybody else does, is no impediment to delivering to the aforementioned rebel, all of her not inconsiderable love. It was a glorious anthem of rebellion and teenage love when it was released in 1962 and fifty years later is still a cracker.

She finishes with a song that should have been hers. She did the original demo of River Deep Mountain High, but Spector instead gave it to Tina Turner who turned it into it into a bona fide rock & soul classic. It's five decades later and it is clear that action still stings, Ms Love sings the heck out of it tonight and suddenly she is gone.

It was a brief show (just over an hour and no encore) and one suspects there are more songs to sing and stories to tell. I hope we have the opportunity for our paths to cross again.

Ian Bell


He's Sure the One I Love
Wait Til My Bobby Gets Home / Da Do Ron Ron
Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry
Marvin Gaye Medley : Ain't That Peculiar / You're All I Need to Get By / Ain't No           Mountain High Enough / What's Going On?
Roberta Flack Medley : Killing Me Softly / .....
A Fine, Fine Boy
Lean On Me
He's A Rebel

River Deep Mountain High


Dirty Men Sing Songs of Strong Women
Friday June 19
Festival Theatre
One Show Only

Dan Finnerty is married to Kathy Nijimy who was one of the big draws of this years festival. Their shows were pretty different.

After appearance in the movies The Hangover and Old School, The Dan Band have become cult favourites.
They are rude.
Sometimes filthy.
It says so right there in the Cabaret Festival guide. So I am surprised by some of the walkouts. Let's make it pretty clear, The Dan Band is a one joke act. However it is a pretty good joke. Men singing songs by women, not changing the gender of the lyrics, leads to some funny things.
It's a bit wrong.
It's a bit misogynistic.
But it is very funny.

They arrive on stage to the Wonder Woman theme and S&M by Rihanna. And before too long they are smashing through a breakneck Abba Medley. Then there's a Salt'n'Pepa medley, so you see where we are going with this. Some of the best 'wrong town' moments are the interactions with the audience.
Dan "Hey Shelley were you C or V? C-Section or vaginal? It's important."
Shelley "Who cares?"
Dan "Your mom cared!"
Shelley "Maybe she died!"
Then they do a speeded up version of the disco hit Ring My Bell (complete bell ringing solo). When they do Shakira's Whenever Whenever Dan gets to sing the line "My breasts are small and humble", it's silly, it's a bit wrong, it's really funny.

Dan sings the songs and his two man 'band' is made up of two middle aged bespectacled guys who look like they should be work in the resources department of your office. They provide backing vocals sure, but it is their utterly hilarious choreography that is often the star of the show. They hula hoop, flounce, do hand stands, dance and all the time looking incongruous, like they shouldn't be there, but you are glad they are.

During the set there are songs by Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, TLC.

When they do Wilson Phillips Hold On it is a highlight and people go crazy, but it's nothing to the reaction for Bonnie Tyler's epic Total Eclipse of The Heart. Because folk be going loco for that one. There are a couple of false encores including a fully choreographed Single Ladies with Lady Bey on the screen behind them. Extremely funny.

The show stopper was Pink's Glitter in the Air complete with some of the dodgiest 'rope' work you'll ever see, hysterical, unco, brilliant.

As I said, kind of one joke band, but it's a great joke.

Ian Bell. 

HAIL TO THE KING Adelaide Cabaret Festival June 19-21 2014

June 19 - 21
Space Theatre

In a strange bit of programming for me tonight I see Hail To The King, four women singing Elvis Presley songs and then go directly to The Dan Band three men singing hits made famous by women. Take that gender stereotypes!

Hail to the King, is a straightforward idea, girls singing songs by one of the manliest men in music history. Not impersonations exactly, but personalized homages. Each singer does a solo set with some duets and cross overs. Stella Angelico is up first and enters the stage in a cape and sequinned jump suit with hot pants affair, that we can be grateful the King never favoured himself. She starts with Fever, the Peggy Lee classic (Elvis does do my absolute favourite version of this song) and then it soon become apparent that this wouldn't just be a greatest hits collection. Angelico delvers all these numbers with a shimmy and an Amy Winehouse twang. There are certainly classic Elvis Hits, but the selection of 'road less travelled' Presley songs like Big Hunk o'Love and Too Much, immediately impresses and gives this show a point of difference above the obvious. I am especially impressed with the inclusion of Devil in Disguise, the song I made my public performing debut with, lip syncing it at a Sunday School concert in a crepe paper cape with a gold crown on the back and cellophane stuck to my black national health glasses when I was 9 years old. A duet with Mojo Juju on the excellent Crawfish from King Creole is a sterling cross over. Mojo is wearing a pink and black jacket and is evoking the early Elvis. Heartbreak Hotel, Love Me, Hound Dog and Blue Moon all delivered with Presley-esque quiver and sexuality. Local girl Simone Page-Jones takes the stage in a black vinyl jumpsuit and her mums knee high boots and playful energy. She starts with Animal Instinct, a pretty obscure song from the movie Harem Scarum and follows that with another soundtrack song, the smouldering All That I Am from Spinout. It's Over and a raucous Baby Let's Play House are excellent. Special mention of the band must be made here. A tight little combo to be sure but the wild and authentic 'licks' from guitar player Felix Pattier are splendid. Simone introduces the fourth and finale lady to the stage and it is a genuine surprise that it is Christa Hughes. Ex-Machine Gun Fellatio, Cab Fest regular and welcome last minute addition to this line up. Wearing a full body gold lame jumpsuit that I imagine she just had in her hand luggage 'just in case', she rips up Viva Las Vegas, with Page-Jones before a cracking Trouble (also from King Creole). In fact all but one of the Hughes songs are from Elvis movies Little Egypt (Roustabout), Edge of Reality and A Little Less Conversation (both from Live a Little Love a Little). The non-movie song Long Black Limousine. Hughes has a loud and infectious on stage personae she is clearly the most comfortable performer on the stage. Her voice is bold and brassy but there are some liberties taken with the lyrics (I say liberties, but they may just been mistakes), but in the spirit such a fun show, this is a minor and forgivable detail. Everybody is back for the rip roaring finale of Suspicious Minds.

It's a fun show and there are late shows this Friday and Saturday night at 10pm.

Ian Bell        

VANDEMONIAN LAGS Adelaide Cabaret Festival 18 June 2014

Festival Theatre
18 June 2014 (One night only)

Cabaret! The word conjures images of feather boas, cocktail glasses, slightly risqué content, Broadway and razzle dazzle. When looking through the Cabaret Festival guide this show, looked, well it didn't look very cabaret-ish. A collection of songs about petty criminals being transported to Tasmania as convicts in the 1800's? Sounds a bit...depressing. But wait a minute. These songs are written by former Weddings Parties Anything head honcho Mick Thomas and the cast includes Brian Nancurvis (Rockwiz), Darren Hanlon, Aussie blues legend Jeff Lang, You Am I front man Tim Rogers  and a stellar cast of other singers and musicians.

It is a half full Festival theatre this evening which is a damnable shame, because Vandemonian Lags is an amazing piece of work. Yes the content isn't always cheery (mostly un-cheery in actual fact), but all of the songs have incredible emotional impact. There is a connectivity, a sense of 'there but for the grace of God go I', a spirit of humanity and even hope, that is both melancholy and rare.

Nancurvis and Rogers mostly take roles as narrators in guises as upper class gentlemen or easily offended judges casting people to transportation to the colonies for stealing or larceny. Both are exceptional in these linking roles, and Rogers is such a natural in his various characterizations I wonder if we will be seeing him in Pirates of Penzance before too long. The 17 stories told see each 'convict' tell their sorry tale about how they come to being shipped off to Tasmania, considered the 'prison with no walls', or how they survived. Tales of love and loss, desperation, injustice and redemption. The songs range from sad laments, jaunty folk shanties to some rip roaring rock and roll.

Without going through each song and it's back story, they are mostly true stories and when the Lags was premiered in Tasmania last year, several descendants from the subjects of these songs were on hand to hear them. Favourites for me were the almost square dance jig of Martha Hayes, Van Diemans Land by Lang, and Jane Gilligan On The Town and an amazing The Book Thief. Special mention has to be made of Tim Rogers raucous take on a story of prostitutes being run out of the Launceston medical facility, the hilariously titled Sex Hospital. But the shining star in the programme is also the most hopeful story. After being transported for poaching and serving 20 years, Samuel tried his hand at prospecting and quickly hit it rich and returned to the UK bought the manner he formerly worked for and was reunited with his wife after two decades. The Wildest Dreams of Samuel is utterly beautiful, sad and glorious and the most hopeful tale in this programme. 

Mick Thomas has created a remarkable piece of work here. It is an powerful emotional journey, with fantastic songs and very strong performances. These are songs and performances that will have a resonance long after the curtain closes. I believe this to be a work that will have a long life and I can see it performed by an ever changing cast long into the future.

Ian Bell