Sunday, November 20, 2011

DOLLY PARTON Adelaide Ent Cent 21 nov 2011


Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Sat 12 Nov 2011.

The Adelaide Entertainment Centre is bursting at the seams with people in cowboy hats, Daisy Duke cut off jeans and one tattooed gal in leather bondage gear and a whip (I didn’t ask). It is obvious that the appeal of Dolly Parton crosses all age barriers, economic groups, sexual preferences and musical styles. It had been twenty four years since the Queen of country music was last in Australia and everybody is very excited.

The lights go down and in the darkness Dolly starts singing an a Capella refrain from Light of a Clear Blue Day the current single of her latest CD Better Day, the curtains part and there she is! Wearing a sequined red outfit with so many sparkles on it you could see it from Mars and the place goes nuts as band kicks into Walking on Sunshine the 1983 hit by Katrina & The Waves. Well I wasn’t expecting that! It’s great actually; Dolly is all over the stage and sounding fantastic. It’s not the only surprise song choice tonight, but it’s a great start to the evening’s entertainment. Baby I’m Burning is fantastic and followed closely by the classic Jolene. Throughout the night many of the songs are introduced by Dolly telling stories and making gags at her own expense. It takes three songs before she makes her first boob joke. Donning a banjo for a selection of bluegrass numbers she mentions how heavy it is and ‘That’s how I built up my chest'. Usually the arrival of a banjo on a concert stage would have me running for the nearest exit but I love this group of songs including Rocky Top Tennessee, Duelling Banjos and Muleskinner Blues. Her band is incredible, crack Nashville session guys many of whom have been working with Dolly for decades. The harmonies are breathtaking and the musicianship is superb. Her gospel roots are evident in Shine (originally by Collective Soul) and strangely on her version of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven (I swear I am not making this up). There’s more old school country with My Tennessee Mountain Home and a glorious a Capella version of Precious Memories including a funny moment when a moth fly’s into her spotlight where she sang a little grab of Butterfly.

With a career spanning over forty years Dolly, she has hits in country music, pop charts and even went disco for a bit, it’s not like she’s short on hits. The early days her music was straight ahead country music and when she started to have hits with songs like the next song in the set Coat of Many Colours, she was still a struggling singer songwriter. She dedicates it to her mother and as she sings it tonight in a single spotlight, accompanying herself beautifully on an autoharp, it is clear that is has become a timeless classic. It’s a spine chilling, goosebump making performance. The end of the first set is mostly from the new album, Better Day, Together You and I and Holding On To Everything. She talks about her movies and the latest, Joyful Noise in which she co-stars with rap star Queen Latifah. She does a little rap number about her co-star and it’s quite funny. She ends the first half with He’s Everything from the same film.

After a short break and a costume change Dolly returns and dons a guitar for White Limozeen and Two Doors Down. Little Sparrow is another highlight and met by rapturous applause. After Better Get to Livin’ (from 2007) we are in the home stretch. Here You Come Again has everybody singing but it takes Islands in the Stream to finally get people on their feet. People are dancing in the aisles and having a great time waving their cowboy hats around. “Well,” says Dolly, “..while you are up, we better do this one!” and they band starts playing 9 to 5 and now everybody is going a bit crazy, singing and dancing along with Dolly. It is really great fun.

She returns and apologises she hasn‘t played I Will Always Love You. A massive hit not only for herself but for Whitney Houston in 1992, but if legend is correct Dolly denied permission for Elvis Presley to record because his manager Col Tom Parker was demanding half the publishing rights. Smart move Dolly. It’s a fantastic way to finish a terrific concert.

It does have to be said that Dolly Parton has always been up front about her act appearing better than the reality by any means necessary. She is a great believer in the smoke and mirrors of show business. She’s been surgically enhanced. She wears wigs and acrylic nails. I think it is also safe to say that Ms Parton wasn’t actually doing all the things on stage tonight that she appeared to be doing. At sixty five years old I guess you can’t expect her to be singing live and dancing at the same time and after some of those more enthusiastic songs she was note perfect while ‘singing’ and dancing but puffing and out of breath when the song finished. It would be almost impossible to play most of the instruments she appeared to play with those nails. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. They call it show business for a reason. And it was a fantastic show. It had razzle dazzle, it had hits, and it had camp. Dolly looked great, her stories and interaction with the audience were occasionally a little ‘hokey’, but it was perfectly in line with her whole image and reputation.

And a full house of 10,000 people absolutely LOVED every single second of it. Spending almost two and a half hours with one of the all time great entertainers added up to one of the concerts of the year.

Dolly we always love you.

Ian Bell.


Before this show I had been asking myself a question that seems to crop up more and more these days: is it worth going to see a legendary band, when the most legendary bits are missing? Would you go and see _The Revolution without Prince? Is it worth going to a show by The Experience without Jimi Hendrix? The Attractions with no Elvis Costello? Sometimes, the answer in a resounding NO. For many acts touring under a legendary banner, the missing element is often the crucial one that elevated something average to something special. The danger is that you end up with a cover band that just happens to have some original members in it.

But in other circumstances the power and momentum of an audiences love for an artist and their music propels a gig into a celebration more like a big huggy joyfest. And that is very much the case at tonight’s show by The Family Stone.

Sly & The Family Stone are legends and innovators of funk and soul. Along with James Brown they were architects of a music that took Rn’B and Soul music, sexed it up and gave birth to the funk. Sly Stone created a sound with his Family Stone (notably with bass player Larry Graham, who created the ‘slap’ bass sound) that combined the sounds of Motown, Stax, British Invasion pop, Psych-rock, Broadway musicals, Gospel and positive lyrical messages you could dance to. And people tonight have come to dance.

Sly Stone doesn’t tour much these days. He spent time in jail on cocaine possession charges and has led what some call a ‘difficult’ life in the last couple of decades. However, word is he is currently working on an new album with an all-star band to be released next year so who knows what will happen in the future.

Originally booked to play the 1,200 capacity HQ, the show had been shifted to the tiny 200 capacity Rocket Bar, which seemed a crazy move for a band of such legend. But as a friend suggested on the night, people either don’t know who they really are or we really do live in a backwater. So things were going to get snug with wall to wall hipsters, standing disinterestedly around waiting for the funk to happen.

With the fact that the opening act is the explosive Hypnotic Brass Ensemble whose previous visits to Adelaide had been slaying a massive crowd at Womadelaide and as part of last year’s fantastic gig by Gorillaz, I would have imagined they could pulled a crowd this big on their own. If you haven’t caught this eight piece, funky as hell horn section yet, what the hell are you doing with your days? The line-up is a kick-ass drummer and seven brass players who dance, swing, sway and get half undressed while sounding like hippest marching band on the planet. Their set is short but sweet, despite the mix being way to loud for the room and the vocal mic sounding like it was not up to the task. There was quite a lot of plugging the CD they were selling, but great energy, great fun and they certainly did an awesome job of warming up the crowd.

A fairly quick change over and The Family Stone hit the stage, ready to rock the house no matter how small the room is. The tiny Rocket stage meant there was no room for keyboards on it, so they set up on the floor in front of the DJ set up. This sadly meant that all but the very front row missed one of the best parts of the show by not being able to see Alex Davis. As the main vocalist and a great performer, he has a beaming smile, and spent the show high five-ing people, and vibeing it up. So it’s a shame that 97% of the room never saw him. Not that there was a lack of things to watch on the stage. Everybody was moving and grooving, even the three original members (all in their sixties), all a blur of colour and dance. Drummer Greg Errico laid down a funky groove while saxman Jerry Martini wailed away. But the star of the show was Cynthia Robinson on trumpet; what a cool woman. Sixty five years old, kicking ass with a funk band. She was awesome!

They were not messing about with the set list either, which was wall-to-wall their best known songs. Dance to The Music, Hot Fun In the Summertime and It’s A Family Affair came in the first fifteen minutes. Davis introduced Underdog from the 1967 A Whole New Thing album, dedicating it to the Occupy movement. For a song that is over forty years old, it still packs quite a punch.

Of the ‘new’ members of the band, Nate Washington (guitar) was a blur of fingers and effects pedals while attractive vocalist Trina Johnson set some hearts racing and played up to the photographers. Bass player Blaise Sison had some big shoes to fill. Larry Grahams distinctive style and pure funkiness are easily replicated, but Blaise slapped the hell out of that thing and pulled the whole she-bang up to another level. If You Want Me to Stay and M’Lady were next and people were dancing on seats and tables trying to get a better view.

The band took us home with I Wanna Take You Higher, Everyday People, and Thank You. Many of the songs were transformed into great extended jams and the response from the audience was genuine and euphoric. There were some songs I’d like to have heard they didn’t include Stand for one, and I can understand why they skipped Don’t Call Me Nigger Whitey which could be considered a little inappropriate these days.

As with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, the mix was actually painfully loud at times and the DJ seemed to kick in with a undignified haste while they were taking their bows. But those minor quibbles aside Adelaide had just been well and truly funked.

Saturday, June 25, 2011




Dunstan Playhouse

Friday June 25

William Shakespeare was an amazing writer. His work will live for all eternity. His body of work captures the human condition, defines drama intent and touches something in people that will always be there to be touched in the same way. However, I doubt that Shakey would have been much chop as an actor, or much use in the James Cameron 50 million dollar big screen version of Hamlet. It doesn’t make him any less of a writer.

So, it has to be said that Jimmy Webb has written some amazing songs. Iconic songs. Timeless songs. Songs that will always be considered classics. Songs that have been sung and interpreted by everybody. From Frank Sinatra, the Fifth Dimension, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand, and Tom Jones have all sung his songs. He tells amazing stories in his these songs. His turn of phrase, his attention to the minutiae of a relationship or break up, his sense of longing and melancholy. He is a fantastic songwriter.

However Jimmy Webb isn’t a fantastic singer. All of these many timeless, classic songs were hits with somebody else at the microphone. Galveston, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Honey Come Back and Wichita Lineman are all amongst my most favourite songs. This is true, but it’s only true when Glen Campbell singing them. I have lots of versions of these songs. Wichita Lineman in particular I have two 90 minute cassettes full of versions of this emotive classic from 1968. My hilariously titled Wichita LineMEN compilation has almost sixty versions of this Webb song, with rock, disco, ska, heavy metal and country versions. So I know these songs can be presented in different ways and in different voices and still be moving and affecting.

Whilst there is something nice about being in the presence of the creator of these songs that have had long and robust lives, the reality is that as a singer, Webb is an exceptional songwriter.

He appears on stage and takes his seat at the simply lit grand piano and starts singing Highwayman. A hit single in 1982 for the supergroup consisting of four of the most distinctive voices of country music; Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings. The lyrics depict four different types of outlaw from an old west robber to a spaceship captain on an ethereal quest. I love this song.

I was a dam builder across the river deep and wide
Where steel and water did collide
A place called Boulder on the wild Colorado
I slipped and fell into the wet concrete below
They buried me in that great tomb that knows no sound
But I am still around. I'll always be around

It has four haunting vignettes sung by deceased characters in the lyric, but tonight in the hands of it’s creator it lacks any weight at all. It quickly becomes apparent that he considers himself more of a virtuoso singer than he actually is. The reaching for unnecessary notes out of his range is clumsy and distracting. His voice is okay when singing in middle register but some of those high notes and attempts vocal gymnastics fall way short of the mark.

“It’s nice to be back in the South” he jokes. Turns out he is extremely likable on stage. He sings Galveston and while the Glen Campbell version has some astounding high parts that Campbell fills with longing and emotion, tonight it is strained. And so it goes. All I Know, written for Art Garfunkels first solo album after his split from Paul Simon, is preceded by a funny story about how that collaboration came to pass. He does Up Up & Away, a massive hit for the Fifth Dimension in 1967, a 60’s classic characterized by the gorgeous layers of harmonies, sadly missing this evening. He asks if we know Judy Collins, a sixties contemporary of Joan Baez and Dylan. Judging by the response most in this audience had not. But it doesn’t prevent him telling a quite long story to introduce The Moon & the Harsh Business. His stories are great and far and away the most enjoyable part of the show. But they go on far too long. Especially as this evening is only an hour long, the stories get longer and longer with a detailed story about his first meeting with Frank Sinatra runs over ten minutes. It’s a good story but after he sings Didn’t We, he takes his bows and leaves the stage.

He has sung six songs.

He returns, stopping to sign an album for somebody in the front row, then continues a story about Richard Harris we had started earlier. It is leading to MacArthur Park, which the Irish actor had an unlikely worldwide hit single with in 1968. With it’s grandiose almost operatic arrangement and bizarre lyrics about someone leaving a cake out in the rain (“I don’t think that I can take, It took so long to bake it and I’ll never have that recipe again, oh no”) one of the strangest chart toppers of all time. Often regarded as a metaphor for drugs it is actually a quite touching look at the loss of someone very close. The revisiting old haunts and trawling through the detail of the life with the one you are missing so desperately. There have been many versions of it, including Donna Summer’s disco-fied version in 1978, but few have left me as unmoved as its writers tuneless rendition tonight. He leans right back away from the microphone looking like he is actually physically reaching for the notes that are out of his reach.

Given the brief length of the show seven songs seems a pretty light amount of songs to do. However not getting to Wichita Lineman or By the Time I Get to Phoenix may have been a blessing in some ways.

Ian Bell



All I Know

Up Up & Away

The Moon is a Harsh Business

Sinatra story

Didn’t We

MacArthur Park

Friday, June 24, 2011




Space Theatre

There were some unusual expressions on the faces of the audience last night. The audiences at most of the cabaret shows have been older and it is possible that the blurb in the programme didn’t indicate exactly what people might expect from Storm Large. In the guide it sounded like an introspective cabaret show from a Vegas glamazon, about living in the shadow of her mothers mental health issues. There is a tiny warning at the bottom of her guide listing (Suitable for audiences 18+ contains strong language and adult themes) but it’s so small the aging Cabaret audience wouldn’t have seen it in with their bi-focals. But I think I can safely say most were not prepared for a storm quite this large.

Things start cabarety enough. A three piece band take their positions and then six foot bombshell Storm takes the stage dressed in black shimmering skin-tight pants, rocker boots and a plunging neckline. The first song Call Me Crazy is a waltz, allowing Large to show the power in her voice and give us a tiny taste of her stage presence. She starts to tell her story about how she was told at nine years old she would end up with similar mental health issues as her mother. So second song in Throw Away the Key, is a wonderful off-kilter piano driven journey in the fear of being crazy. The volume has risen to full rock band levels and the first swearing of the night has arrived. A quick glance round the room shows facial expressions ranging from fear to delight, but there are a lot of mouths agape and eyebrows raised. Because it has to be said Storm Large is an astounding presence on the stage. And that voice. She can smoulder like a chanteuse and then she lets fly with one of the most powerful rock voices I have ever heard in my life and have you pinned to the back wall with its intensity.

“I realise I haven’t seen you guys before Adelaide, and you haven’t seen me, so this is like a first date. So we’ll see how we get on and see I will fuck you after the show or not.”

Four songs in and she talks about how her discovery of masturbation, and love of wildlife documentaries weren’t mutually exclusive and how at sixteen she came to understand her sexuality gave her some potent power over men. The story before Put It in Pull It Out is a shocking one, as is the song itself. Searching for love and being confident in her sexuality are portrayed with great potency. An amazing version of Stay with Me (Rod Stewart & The Faces) leads a trio of great songs of obsession. I Want You to Die am a burning declaration of intent to an ex. But it is her reading of Olivia Newton Johns Grease classic Hopelessly Devoted to You that really kills. Turning Sandy’s playground love song into a smouldering, obsessive almost stalker intent screamer, is just brilliant.

Inside Outside is a cry for help and love. She is saved by Pat Benatar, not in person, but by being asked to sing Heartbreaker with a bar band. Her re-enactment of that first experience on stage and the wild and ecstatic release it gave her is euphoric and quickly leads to a thump back to earth with her descent into heroin addiction. It’s a shocking story told with some bluntness “Then he left the band so I started fucking the bass player, then we got a new guitar player and I started fucking him, but he got sacked and started fucking the new guitar player…”. This is not regular Cabaret Festival in between song banter.

What the fuck is Lady Like

If Lady Like means do what the fuck you like

Her single from her time with US reality TV show Rockstar Supernova is a frantic, angry rock chick anthem and a highlight of this show. It’s followed by The Pixies Where Is My Mind? A perfect song of reflection about the state she’d arrived in. But the realization that everybody is crazy in their own ways is liberating. She shows that she is comfortable in who she is, regardless of what anybody else has to say about it, with the fantastic sing-a-long 8 Miles Wide. By now this stage almost everybody is won over by this brassy, sassy and sexy amazon with the potty mouth and the powerhouse voice. So we all sing along.

“My vagina is eight miles wide

Absolutely everyone can come inside

And if you get frightened you can run and hide

My vagina is eight miles wide”

She returns to the stage to thunderous applause. The date has gone well according to Storm. So we will be getting lucky after the show. She finishes with The Lullaby Song. Written for her mother, who died earlier this year. It is simple and beautiful and reminds us there is more to this Storm than thunder and lightning.

A must see at this Cabaret Festival – Storm Large is fantastic.

Storm Large plays at The Space Theatre on June 24 & 25 at 9:30pm. There is one show in Sydney at The Vanguard (Newtown) on Wednesday June 29th at 6:30pm and one in Melbourne at Red Bennies on Chapel Street on Thursday June 31.

Ian Bell


Call Me Crazy

Throw Away the Key

Going Insane

Put It in Pull It Out

Stay With Me

I Want You to Die

Hopelessly Devoted To You

Inside Outside


Lady Like

Where Is My Mind?

8 Miles Wide

The Lullaby Song

Thursday, June 23, 2011




Festival Theatre Stage

Wed June 22

As I have mentioned elsewhere, one of the great things about this festival is the creative use of spaces around the Festival Theatre and the main stage in the Theatre itself is my favourite. The excitement of entering the main theatre and walking up the stairs, behind the red velvet curtain to the stage is all a bit Narnia. Behind the curtain is a large cabaret venue with tables and chairs with a stage that is situated effectively with its back to the audience of the stage proper.

The room is dimly lit and a pianist takes to the grand piano. A brief announcement and out strides BRYAN BATT. As sharply dressed as he ever was on MAD MEN, he is met warmly by the sell-out audience.

“It so great to be back in my home town of Adelaide for the first time.” He quips and starts Home Is Where the Heart Is. He has a fantastic voice and carries himself like the Broadway star he actually is. He tackles The City of New Orleans (made famous by Arlo Guthrie at Woodstock) with great style. It’s a song about his home town and he clearly still enamoured New Orleans.

“If there’s one thing I have learnt about cabaret is that you need to do a love song.”

Before singing beautifully about having met a girl, who eyes are perfect and whose kisses are perfect before hitting the chorus.

“That’s why I’m dumpin’ you BITCH” taking the entire room off guard with its pseudo r’n’b attitude and progressively more aggressive and outrageous tone. Each chorus gets a more ludicrous BEE-YATCH. It’s comic and perfectly played.

Decorum is restored with a wonderful version of Night & Day by Cole Porter. Between songs he tells great stories about growing up ‘theatrical’ in New Orleans with his Southern Belle mother and his baseball fan dad. And the music jumps from show tunes to Bacharach, Billy Joel and Petula Clarke. A trio of Downtown, Wives & Lovers and This Guys in love With You (all Mad Men era classics) is a highpoint. When he is crooning Broadway classics and belting out those huge closing notes it is spine-tingling.

My favourite thing those is Batt’s comedy skills. His timing is excellent and he tells a great story. Many alluding to his early ‘flamboyance’ and this is spotlighted with a fantastic song called Ahead of My Time.

Today’s the day your son becomes a man papa
Today he claims a mate and joins the clan papa
Or that’s what you’d expect, from any son who walks erect
Well I’m sorry but I’ve got a different plan papa

I’m not like the other cavemen
Mother Nature gave men a brain
But for most of them it’s all in vain
They got no reason or rhyme
Undeniably I’m way ahead of my time


With a spear in hand I fear I’m ineffectual
But I might just be the world’s first homo-sapien, who’s an intellectual

It’s unashamedly camp and hysterically funny. It’s ragtime tempo and some fantastically amusing dancing from Bryan is excellent. As is the story he tells of his first ever trip to Broadway at age 12. He was allowed to pick one show to see with is mother and grandmother. He picked Gilda Radner from Saturday Night Live. She had opened with a very rude song called Lets Talk Dirty to The Animals, which Batt proceeds to romp through causing whoops and howls from the audience.

There are some more reflective moments. A song he dedicated to the victims of the floods in both New Orleans and Queensland ‘Things That Float, is moving and his version of Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind is wonderful.

He shares a very funny letter from his number one fan Jessica, before closing with the gay anthem made famous by disco diva Gloria Gaynor, I Am What I Am. Batt’s version is miles away from the disco but it a grand end to the set. The thunderous applause brings him back to the stage for stunning song Infinite Joy by William Finn.

Bryan Batt is exactly the sort of act we should be seeing in a Cabaret Festival.

Absolutely Fabulous.

Ian Bell


Home is Where the Heart Is

Good Morning America ‘How Are You’

I’m Dumpin’ you bitch

Night and Day


Wives & Lovers

This Guy's in Love With You

Damn Yankees (dream)

Sun Shines Like Diamonds

Talk Dirty With the Animals (Gilda Radner)

I’m Becoming My Mother

Ahead of My Time

The Things that Float

Miss New Orleans

New York State of Mind

Jessica (the fan letter)

I Am What I Am

Life Has Infinite Joy




Banquet Room, Festival Theatre

Wed June 22, 2011

I have to say I love the Banquet Room as a venue. It has a great atmosphere, especially for cabaret performance. What we get tonight is a superb cabaret show. JANE CLIFTON is possessed of an incredible voice, the wit of a great story teller and the warm likeability of a classic showbiz performer. This is a great cabaret show.

Clifton former member of proto-feminist rock band Stiletto, singer on the Aussie classic Taxi Mary (with Jo Jo Zep) and cast member of Prisoner Cell Block H, combines all her talents in her current Adelaide Cabaret festival show.

With a three piece combo providing stylish and often swinging accompaniment Clifton takes to the stage in a flowing red outfit and takes a seat behind a stack of suitcases. It’s a simple and effective prop as the show is about her 2008 trip around the world visiting every house she ever lived in. As a UK Army brat, Clifton lived all over the world with her family, sometimes for years at a time and sometimes for only months. As effective as the suitcases are as a prop, the device of the revisiting all her old houses provides an effective narrative complete with a travelogue, time machine and jukebox all rolled into one. Using just a few photographs and warm and often hilarious stories about her life and travels, Clifton takes us on a perfectly wonderful journey. From the first song Rosemary Clooney’s Where Will the Baby’s Dimple Be, to flag her birth on the Rock of Gibraltar, a year or on an era is instantly conjured. A quick sing-a-long on How Much Is That Doggy in the Window (more fun than you might think), leads to an absolutely smouldering take on Billie Holidays Comes Love.

Don’t try hiding

Coz there isn’t any use

You just can’t stop sliding

When your heart turns on the juice

It is a hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck raising, goose bump inducing spectacular performance. Over the course of the hour long show she sings song (in whole or in part) from Elvis Presley, Cole Porter, The Troggs, Kathy Weston and The Beatles.

A great take of Shirley Basseys It’s My Body that’s Important Not My Mind is a highlight. Illustrating how diverse the charts in the early 60’s were she performs what is effectively a mash-up of Take Five by Dave Brubeck and Breaking Up Is Hard To Do by Neil Sedaka, and throws in another half dozen grabs of hits of the day. She let’s rip with solid rock power on Jefferson Starship’s White Rabbit, before talking about her time with Stiletto, but not singing any of their songs frustratingly.

She sings a highly amusing song about her time on Prisoner, The Blue Denim Overall Blues while a collage of Prisoner era photos shows on the screens. She closes the show with her hit single from 1982 The Girl in the Mirror.

A sterling night, catch her if you can.

Ian Bell





Wednesday June 15

There is a moment half way through this show when a really talented woman on the stage singing a lounge version Marilyn Mansons The Dope Show at the top of her lungs while throwing pills at her own mouth from arms length. It’s not the sort of thing you get to see very often. It’s the sort of thing I wish Adelaide had a more regular venue for. It is why I love the cabaret festival.

The lights go down and Molly Pope appears from the back of the room, looking like she’s stepped off the set of Mad Men. Beehive hair-do, 1966 dress and old school suitcase and desperately searching for the spotlight. It’s a nice touch as that is what the show is about. Molly has arrived in the big apple and longs for the dizzy heights of stardom.

She starts with Live Till I Die by famous by Frank Sinatra, a great song about reaching for your goals. Immediately the entire room is grabbed by the huge brassy voice on fantastically realised on stage personae of this 60’s go getter, with a dream in her head and a song in her heart. The inclusion of Nick Gilders 1978 semi-hit Hot Child In The City flies over the recognition of much of the audience, one of my favourite songs of that era I am thrilled by it’s appearance. Wether you know it or not, it is a great song and Pope’s smouldering take on it leaves us in no doubt she is a ‘Hot child in the city, running wild and looking pretty’. She soon finds life in the city can be tough and through a fantastic medley of Pick A Pocket or Two (from the musical Oliver), the Pet Shop Boys Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of money) and I Can’t Give You Anything But Love. Takes us on this journey with a lot of humour and pathos. Molly’s fortunes change when she is romanced by a Broadway producer and the doomed romance is told through Dancing Queen, I need U Tonite and Lovefool.

Throughout she uses props and clever staging to hold the audience spellbound to her story. There are regular knowing references to breaking the period tone. A favourite being her miming dialling an old phone and then telling the person she talks that she should text her later.

Nat King Coles 1964 song The Rules of the Road is next and remarkably still relevant all these decades later. Miss Pope briefly becomes a Jukebox Hero before the downward spiral is wonderfully illustrated with Amy Winehouse’s I Heard Love Is Blind and the afore mentioned Dope Show.

Pope tells her story, with excellent comic timing, style and wit and a voice as big as the great outdoors. Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea is gorgeous and followed by Liza Minnelli’s Meantime from 1964.

She breaks character for the first time to thank her crew, and the Cabaret festival (“for making me feel more famous than I have in my whole life”). A special mention must be made of her pianist Kenny Mellman, who apart from Pope’s show had been performing his Our Own Hit Parade as well running up six shows in three days.

She sits on a stool to perform her final number and it is an amazing and hilarious version of the All American Heroes track Gives You Hell. With every tilt of her head, every sneer on her lips, every lyric delivered with an ever broadening smile, we are left in no doubt exactly how much ‘Hell’ she is wishing us.

I hope that Introducing Molly Pope is the start of a beautiful and long relationship.

Ian Bell


  1. Live Til I Die

Hot Child in the City

Pick a Pocket or Two

With plenty of money and you

Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)

I Can’t Give You Anything But Love

Dancing Queen

I Need U Tonite

Never Let Me Go


The Rules of the Road

Jukebox Hero

I heard love is blind

The Dope Show

In the Aeroplane over the Sea


Gives You Hell


Mad Men star BRYAN BATT brings his theatrical side to Adelaide Cabaret Festival this week.

Over four seasons period drama MAD MEN has gone from strength to strength finding a massive worldwide audience. Initially seduced by the sharp suits, great hair styles and the shockingly misogynistic and racist attitudes of the chain smoking advertising agency men, audiences soon were becoming aware that they were watching something with all together more meat on its bones than regular Network dramas. Made by US cable network Lionsgate, Mad Men is amongst the new breed of American TV, mainly made for cable. There are some TV companies (notably HBO responsible for True Blood, Deadwood, The Sopranos and the incredible Game of Thrones) that utilize a little used ingredient in the work they produce for television. They give the audience credit for having an intelligence and hunger for more depth and complexity in their viewing tastes, something the major networks have long abandoned, if they ever did.

One of the first things people are shocked by on Mad Men is the endless smoking and drinking in the work place. The smoking in particular is all the more shocking because in the politically correct world we live in these days, means nobody smokes on TV anymore. But in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s cigarette companies were still advertising using celebrities and doctors to promote the lung strengthening properties of the death sticks. MM is a slap in the face with its attitude to drinking, smoking and its treatment of women, racism and homosexuality. Rather than being gratuitous, the pace and texture of this excellent drama is clever, measured and fantastically rewarding.

One of the most astute plotlines (spoiler alert) concerns the agency’s art director Salvatore Romano, a married but closeted homosexual, played magnificently by BRYAN BATT. Closeted almost from himself Salvatore is violently propositioned by a representative of Sterling Coopers biggest client and when Sal declines he is sacked and humiliated. It is an incredible twist in the richly complex Mad Men world and Batt’s portrayal of Romano’s dismissal is utterly devastating. So much so that there is lobbying amongst MM fans to have his character re-instated in series five which returns in 2012.

In the meantime Bryan Batt (co-incidentally himself openly gay with a partner of twenty years) has returned to his main stock and trade Broadway musicals. As a sidebar he has found a new forum in the world of New York cabaret. His show Batt on a Hot Tin Roof has been a success in the USA and makes its Australian debut this week as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

He has been described as a ‘theatrical’ child and the stage was always where he wanted to be. Is it true that you lied about your age to get into a production when you were ten years old?

“Yes it is,” laughs an amiable Batt “I was ten; you were supposed to be twelve, so I lied. I wanted to do it so badly. It was a production Lil’ Abner and I never divulged my real age and they never unveiled my deception. But I actually learnt a lot of important things about life in the theatre, by doing shows when I was a kid. Things I still carry with me all these years later. What sort of things? If you can see the audience from backstage they can see you. A director called Ty Tracey came to all the kids and said ‘Every one of you is replaceable’ (laughter). I thought it was so funny. But he was right - be on time, know your lines, do your work if you don’t you are out. I learnt that at a very early age and it has served me well in all my years on Broadway and off-Broadway. So theatre has always been my love. I have other loves but theatre has always been the core of my…existence (laughs).”

Broadway has such myth and legends about it, to people out of New York I think it seems like a magical or made up place.

“Oh it’s very real! It scary at first but after you’ve done a few Broadway shows you start to know everybody, it’s almost Collegiate. It’s very much like being at college and everybody is friends right there in the Times Square area.”

One of the great honours of being in that Broadway family is having your caricature hung in Sardi’s Restaurant, did that blow your mind when that happened?

“It really did. That came from Saturday Night Fever where I played the DJ and I just went a bit wild with it. And the Sardi’s people approached the producers and I was thrilled that they wanted to do it. Such an honour to be amongst all those great performers.”

So you had been on Broadway for many years and along came the incredible Mad Men. It’s such a fantastic show and your role as Salvatore is superb. How did you become involved?

“I’m lucky that I have had a long career in theatre and it was through theatre that the producers approached me. I agree it is a superb show. The scripts were genius. The character was genius. I wasn’t hard to decide to do it. The attention to detail in the sets and costumes and the depth of all the characters. But all of that is down to Michael Weiner. He created the show, he created that character and it was his vision from the very start. He is just brilliant. They made it pretty easy for us. We always knew we would look fantastic and that the integrity of the characters would be protected. All we had to do was turn up on time and remember our lines (laughs). But I have never felt so supported as an actor before. And is has been such fun to be involved in such an outstanding production.”

Salvatore was a much loved role and there has been a groundswell of demands for you to be written back into to Season Five, with Facebook groups etc.

“I have seen that. It very flattering, even though I may have inadvertently inspired it myself. I did an interview where I was asked if I’d go back if I was asked. I said something along the lines of ‘in a heartbeat’ maybe people should start a Facebook group or something. Which was a joke, but groups appeared shortly after that. It’s not like on the Sopranos, my character only got fired it’s not like I ended up in the back of the truck or dumped in the river. People really did care about Sal. He was important to people and I am constantly asked if he will return. In fact when I saw Elisabeth Moss who played Peggy on the show in New York a while ago, she said ‘I am sick of people asking me what is going on with Sal’ (laughs). It is a testament to the talent of Michael Weiner and the other writers on the show that it is a character that people identify with, across generations really.”

While I was looking for that petition I came across another group trying to get you on Glee.

“Oh Ho. Wow I didn’t know that! I have done musicals and Broadway for years. I was in Cats and there’s a joke right there! I had a blast and I don’t regret one thing. It is such an honour to be on Broadway and to be able to perform night after night. That was my job to dance and sing. And oh my God I love Glee. It is a fantastic show; I’d love to be on Glee. I love Modern Family too.”

So tells us about the show you are bringing to Adelaide, Batt on a Hot Tin Roof

“Well it’s just a lot of fun. A real mixed bag of nuts. It’s a fun night. I tell my story, sing some songs and I think everybody will have a good time. That’s how it came about. I grew up in New Orleans and after Hurricane Katrina there were a lot of fund raising events and charities taking place and I was asked if I would put together a one man show as a benefit for displaced actors and musicians after Katrina. I put this together and it went really well. I have kept doing it and morphing it and it has kept growing and growing and growing. I’ve done a run in New York recently and now I’m doing it in Australia! I am so excited. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, just get your ticket and get on the rollercoaster. It’s going to be fun. It’s not studious at all, ‘I will now sing the unknown songs of Cole Porter’ (laughs). Cole Porter was brilliant and I do one of his songs in the show, but when I go to cabaret I want to have fun. And that’s what I am all about.”

So apart from appearing on TV, in Broadway shows and now a one man cabaret show Bryan is also an author of a book She Ain’t Heavy She’s My Mother. He runs an interior design company with his partner Tom Cianfichi with whom another book on home design will be released later this year.

My philosophy in life is that everything should be an ‘and’ proposition, not an ‘or’ proposition. If you want to change your job, or try something new, just do it. We shouldn’t limit ourselves; other people will try and do that anyway. If you have a passion or longing to do something else – do it. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. That attitude took me to Broadway, TV and now to Australia. I just can’t wait to get on a plane and take that 18 hour flight to Adelaide. I am so excited. I have never been to Australia and it’s been one of my dreams to visit Australia. My grandparents went there when I was a kid and they loved it there and would talk about it all the time. It has always seemed a magical place to me and I can’t wait to get there.”

Bryan Batt’s Batt on a Hot Tin Roof plays on the Festival Theatre Stage from Wednesday June 22 to Friday June 24.

Ian Bell 2011

LEO SAYER the Show Must go On : INTERVIEW



When Leo Sayer first toured Australia in 1974 it made quite an impact on him. After months of lead up, by the time he landed it was full blown Leo-Mania. Thousands of fans greeted him at airports and the sold out concerts across the country were scenes of fan-demonium. Australia liked Leo Sayer and Leo Sayer liked Australia. He became a regular visitor, doing over twenty five tours before emigrating here in 2006, and taking citizenship in 2009. He clearly feels he belongs here. When he speaks about the Australia and its music business he says ‘our country’ and ‘our business’ with great integrity. Since the move Sayer has been back in the UK charts, worked with the Wiggles regularly, judged a Miss Nude Universe contest, become close friends with many local musicians and is about to hit the Adelaide Cabaret Festival for four shows this weekend at the Dunstan Playhouse.

His early years were packed with hits like Long Tall Glasses, Moonlighting, One Man Band, When I Need You, You make Me Fell Like Dancing and More Than I Can Say. The longest the Leo has ever been away from the charts is five years, so he is about due for another appearance on the charts.

Leo is on the phone from his home in Sydney having just returned from a sell-out show in Sri Lanka his first visit there. Having just dodged the Chilean Volcano ash he is keen to talk about his life and music to Faster Louder.

I wonder what your memories of that first Australian tour are?

“It was Leo-Mania! Ha ha. It’s hard to realise in this age of celebrity, with useless magazines that talk about ‘stars’ all day and useless TV shows like X Factor and Idol, everything is very instant and saturated. But back in those days I guess they used to rely on things like putting up posters ‘He’s coming in six months’. And (Paul) Dainty was so organised, I’d never been involved in a tour so together. Countdown was involved and all the magazines were all going ‘he’s coming, he’s coming’ that interest was huge by the time I got there. The airports were lined with people. In Melbourne the airport had just got one of those enclosed ramps and they were really proud of it. But they decided not to use it so Leo Sayer could walk down onto the tarmac and all the people on the roof could see. It was things like that I found funny.”

Was is funny or was it a bit scary?

“Mostly it was just funny. There was an incident in Brisbane when the limousine took the wrong turn into a radio station car park and there was about 5,000 fans waiting. They went a bit nuts and rolled the car over with me in it. Eventually the police came running in, but by that stage I was sitting on the roof inside with three other people going ‘what the fuck?’. The ocker DJ inside wouldn’t believe me ‘pull the other one Leo’.”

Yes that’s right boys and girls the nicest man in pop swears. Swears like a trooper as it happens. That kind of hysteria seemed at bit odd for somebody who was essentially a singer songwriter.

“I know the world of Justin Bieber (laughs). That poor kid is out there trying to do a job and the publicity machine goes into overdrive because his people want to drain as much money as they can out of the fans pockets before he falls out of favour next week. So I met with the pop world which wasn’t anything to do with me really. I wanted longevity. I always had an attitude of ‘c’mon guys, don’t fuss about, we’ll be here for a while’. When I think of bands like the Beatles and the Stones who will always be the biggest bands in history, U2 and the Foo Fighters can’t touch them. They are it. But they were forty years ago and they haven’t been improved upon. At the time they were thinking ’We’ll never be as good as Chuck Berry’.”

It was a great time for music and the dawn of the Countdown era in Australia.

“Countdown was a great platform. With that crazy Molly Meldrum in charge. He was nowhere near a professional host, but he had lots of enthusiasm and he seemed to like me more than a lot of the others. So if a show was going a bit dull or somebody dropped out he’d be “play some Leo”. For which I am very grateful.”

I think Molly worked so well because he was not ashamed of being a fan and loving the music and the musicians on Countdown.

“Exactly! It’s one of the things I love about this country, it’s no bullshit. There’s hype but people in bands and the people who go to shows are no bullshit. The reason urban music has never taken over here is we are used to people who can play instruments and the fans who are fiercely loyal and will follow the Chantoozies til they die. Which is great. The media can’t get away with the sort of crap the English music press have always done. Culture Club went to America and play in a small club and the papers in the UK are front page Madison Square Garden Sell Out for Boy George. Here it’s reality or nothing. It’s straight up and I’m proud as an Australian citizen to be thought of as one of the boys.”

That’s very much an Aussie attitude generally was that part of what has drawn you to the country and made it your home?

“Totally. I am very anti-fame. I don’t like X-Factor and Idol and all that hype. I feel like what Australians expect from their lives and their culture is to cut to the chase. I think people here don’t want to be told what they should like, they like to see for themselves. I recognise the fact that Jimmy Barnes has been on stage for thirty plus years done 3,000 gigs and still doesn’t want to get in a limo.”

Given that you hate all that celebrity nonsense I was a bit surprised when you went into the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2007.

“Surprised me as well mate! It was a load of old shit. Everybody in life does something as a vehicle. So I was approached and was told that the zeitgeist of the modern times was that if I did one of these shows, there is a guarantee of a record contract. I’d been working on a new record and trying to sell it, but nobody was interested, because the whole industry now works round celebrities. So what do you do? So I did the show. It was shit and they set me up.”

And set him up they did. There was a dispute over clean underwear and the fact they were making Leo share a bed with Towers of London lead singer Donny Tourette’s who preferred sleeping in the nude. After several arguments with Big Brother and demanding to see his contract Leo Sayer, always considered one of pop’s nicest guys, broke through a door with a shovel and had a massive argument with security guards who were preventing him from getting out of the compound. In some ways it was the last straw for Leo in the UK’s celebrity obsessed tabloid culture. He left for Australia soon after the BB incident.

Having had such a long career do you constantly have people saying ‘That was the song I got married to’ and expressing how your songs have impacted on their lives?

”Yes I do. It’s wonderful to think songs I made in 1973 still mean something to people. I get a long of people saying ‘You did that song? I had no idea who did that’. Some people who think that’s a problem but I fucking love that the songs have a life of their own. I never had kids so my songs are like my children. They are greater than me, bigger than me. I guess sometime the song becomes bigger than the artist in some ways. There was a very rich lady in England who I sang at her engagement party. I sang at her wedding and when she got divorced she had a party for all her friends and I sang at that too, book-ending the whole relationship.”

Leo brings his The Show Must Go On show to the Dunstan Playhouse this weekend (June 16, 17, 18 and 19).

Ian Bell

JANE CLIFTON A girl in 32 Mirrors Interview

She has been a Stiletto. She's been locked up in Wentworth with Bea and Vinegar Tits. At the Adelaide Cabaret festival, Jane Clifton sings songs about every house she’s ever lived in.


For some people, okay…a LOT of people Jane Clifton will always be Margo Gaffney in Prisoner Cell Block H. Some people will remember her from classic ABC kids show Round the Twist. Others will have fond memories of her appearances on Countdown in the 1980s, guesting with Jo Jo Zep on Taxi Mary or her own top ten single Girl in the Mirror. And the more senior amongst us remember the great band she fronted in the 1970’s called Stiletto. Jane has continued singing, acting and writing novels. She is an all-round renaissance gal.

Her latest book is called The Address Book, which along with her Adelaide Cabaret show Anywhere I Hang My Hat Is Home, tells the true story of Jane cashing in her super funds and going round the world to revisit every one of the 32 houses she has ever lived in. So along the way there are stories and songs, some revelations, scandals and laughs.

My earliest memory of you was as part of Stiletto in about 1976. They were a very Melbourne/Toorak ‘alternative’ band. I always imagined they lived round the corner from Skyhooks in Carlton. What are your memories of that period?

“For me a lot of it was very Melbourne-based. There were a lot of incredible bands like Jo Jo Zep, Billy T, the Sports and the Sydney ones like Radio Birdman. It was kind of the same time as punk and there was a really healthy scene. You could play the Mathew Flinders from 3 to 6pm, then go over to Martini’s and play 9 til twelve and then play somewhere else from 12 to four in the morning. And all for $75 (laughs)...but you were working.”

Adelaide certainly had a circuit but it was a bit different wasn’t it?

“Yours was the University scene. We’d come over and we’d do Flinders, University of South Australia and get billeted at the Uni’s and we could do a weeks worth of gigs at a time. You’d play at the Arkaba and stay at the little Arkaba (*Court) up the road.”

Were you always acting while you were singing?

“Always! When I was in Stiletto I was still doing shows at the Pram Factory or wherever. It was always simultaneous.”

My memory of that period is that it was a really fertile period for creative people. Apart from the music scene flourishing, there was also fringe comedy and the alternative theatre and cabaret scenes. There was also a lot of crossover between those different areas. Is that how you remember it?

“Definitely, there were lots of people in lots of different streams of things. So people like me and Red Symons (from Skyhooks, and later Hey Hey) for instance we were in a band together and at the same time he was in a play, which I was directing. None of us thought it was a career. It was just having fun and doing things because they were interesting to do. Not because we were going to have a job as an actor or a musician. We were just kind of doing it.”

I get the impression the opportunity to do that is considerably reduced these days as everything is about ‘career trajectory’ and ‘market penetration’.

“Yes but the industry is a lot more developed too. You can go to the Victorian College of the Arts and study how to be a roadie. You can study advanced rock’n’roll 101. Back in those days you often just figured at some stage you’d go back and finish off your degree and end up being an English teacher. It was really only when I got to my thirties I thought I might have to go back and finish my Dip Ed. I realised I wasn’t qualified to do anything else except what I am doing already. I realised that this was my job and there was no going back.”

Even though she played the role of Wentworth Women’s Prison’s resident rough, sharpie-haired, prison bookie and fire-starter in Prisoner (Cell Block H if you’re in the UK or USA) thirty years ago, the show still has a massive cult following. It is still amazingly popular in the UK and with strong pockets of obsessive fans in the USA and at home. The cast members can still be flown to the UK for Prisoner fan events where people pay 100 pounds each to spend the afternoon chatting with the former fictional inmates getting photos and autographs and buying memorabilia.

“It’s been a cult show now and it has been for thirty years. At the time it was certainly popular when it was on the screens, but its longevity is mystifying. It’s not on TV in the UK at the moment but it’s only just stopped in the last couple of years. If we were getting royalties from Prisoner I never would have had to work another day in my life. But we didn’t. The only pain is that there are constantly thirty year old images of the very thin version of you. So you do occasionally think ‘Oh go away!”. But it does mean I can go back to the UK occasionally and make some money. Which is great. They organise a personal appearance and 50 or 100 people turn up, have dinner with you, have their picture taken with you and bob’s your uncle!”

So the show you’ll be doing in the Cabaret Festival is a kind of travelogue of all the houses you’ve lived in.

“Yes. I’ve just written a book about my trek around the world to visit every house I had ever lived in. There were thirty two houses. I was a British Army kid and we moved around a lot. I was born on the Rock of Gibraltar, grew up in Germany and Malaysia and so forth. And there is a lot of music in the book. This is like the songs from The Address Book so I’ll be reading bits of the book, and singing some of the songs that are featured so it’s like a musical voyage back through my houses. The music varies from music from my mothers’ record collection from when I was growing up Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra. The MGM musicals. 60’s girl group stuff from when I came to Australia. I cover the Stiletto period and my single Girl on the Wall. A whole bunch of things that are a musical odyssey that brought me to the way I sing now.”

It’s a great idea for a show..

“I hope it works Ian! (laughing)”

Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home premiers at the Festival Centre Banquet Room on June 22 and 23.

Ian Bell

STORM LARGE : A Talent Eight Miles Wide


STORM LARGE. It’s an unusual name.

When I saw her show Crazy Enough listed in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival guide I wondered where I had heard that name before? A quick trip to Google and it all came rushing back to me. She was the brassy rock chick from Rock Star Supernova. The first series of Rock Star was looking for a new lead singer for INXS (they found J.D. Fortune). In the second season (2006) the idea was to find a singer to front a super-duper mega group featuring Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), James Newstead (Metallica, Gilby Clarke (Guns N’Roses) and Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction/Red Hot Chili Peppers). Eventually won by Lukas Rossi, amongst the most popular contestants were Toby Rand from Melbourne and the powerhouse, six foot Vargas pin-up Storm Large. She made it up to the penultimate week, and it looked like she was poised to be swept up by hungry record companies who were looking to package her as a modern rock diva. Turns out Storm had other ideas.

”I don’t have any regrets. Before I got on the show, I considered what I may regret. I knew it was very corporate, very Hollywood, it’s not really me. It’s not even terribly rock’n’roll, it’s very phoney and it’s not my style. But it was an opportunity for millions of people to see me and make up their own minds about wether they liked me or buy my records. It was a three month long advertisement for all of us who managed to stay on the show for that long. I had a full and rich career before hand. I was independent, making my own money and working as a singer for six years before Rock Star. So I already had a career, but it definitely increased my international profile and brought me a much larger and more varied audience. A lot of people who get most of their entertainment through television don’t really go to concerts. So it didn’t change my audience just made it bigger.”

That was in 2006 and five years on you are heading to Australia for the first time and doing a very different kind of show. What was the journey from hanging out with those LA rock dudes to a punky cabaret show with some dark overtones and a cheeky sense of humour?

“Everybody assumed that after Rock Star I would get a record deal, make a rock’n’roll record and tour as a rock’n’roll act. But that’s never really been me, or at least not all of me. After I put out the Ladylike ep, I toured it for a year and I got really tired of it. I felt like the audience was looking at me expecting me to bring something different than I was wanting to deliver. I felt too old to be going back in time (Storm was 37 when she was on the show) to try and manufacture that fire and indignation that fuelled me in my 20s and I’m not going to pretend to be a young kid and pretend to do this rock thing. I have the energy and the chops for it, but it wouldn’t be true. So I resisted. I got offered the role of Sally Bowels in Cabaret. I said no for a while. I wasn’t an actor and didn’t think people would believe me in that role. But….Sally Bowels is a fucked up club singer and a drug addict and had experienced a lot of the things I had been through myself, not the war and the Nazis, most everything else.”

So what changed your mind?

“Eventually I said yes because I liked the idea of being home. It was in Portland, Oregon so I could ride my bike to work every day, go home and sleep in my own bed. I won’t have to worry about where I am going to sleep, where am I gonna get some food, where’s the gig, who’s the promoter, who’s going to pay me? All that pain in the ass touring stuff. Which I had being doing on my own and it’s a rough gig. Big rock stars have people who take care of all of that, but when you are independent you are booking the gigs, driving the car, navigating, negotiating, stage managing, carrying your own gear. It’s a fuckin’ pain. So this theatre gig sounded pretty sweet. I did it thinking I was going to hate it, but turned out I loved it. It was fantastic actually. I loved the other actors, I loved the music and the whole process and we did that show for six months. Then the artistic director of the theatre approached me and said he thought I should write a one woman show. I thought it would be a sex, drugs and rock and roll kind of deal and he said ‘No I think it should be more about your mother and growing up the way you did.”

When she was nine years old a doctor told Storm it was likely she would end up with the same mental health issues as her mother. It was to affect her life in myriad ways. It was not, however, something she saw herself bringing to the stage.

“I thought it was a dumb idea. It’s a sad story. Who would want to hear that? But he said ‘you would be surprised’. If he and my musical director James hadn’t convinced me it was worthwhile, and it took a lot of convincing believe me, we wouldn’t be talking about it now. There is sex and drugs and rock and roll in there, but it is really about the sort of things that makes people make the choices they do in life. What drives you as an artist? And the idea that a lot of people have to find their voice as an artist in order to NOT go crazy and to find a reason to live. Singing and performing and stomping around saved my life in a lot of ways. And a lot of mistakes were made and terrible unhealthy choices, but no worse that you find in Tommy Lee’s book or the Keith Richards one. My story is fuckin’ My Fair Lady compared to those guys, but it is an emotional journey of a girl finding her voice.”

Hearing something like that when you were nine must have cast quite a shadow over the way you developed as a person?

“Well yeah. Often when people hear that story they go ‘Man that doctor was EVIL’. And he really wasn’t. He was trying to comfort me. He was saying ‘well it is hereditary, and you will end up like your mother but we can take of it when you start developing symptoms in your twenties or whenever you have kids, whichever comes first.’. The only thing I knew was my mother. I knew she looked just like me. She was the only woman in my proximity. She was very focused on me and loved me, but was a fuckin’ mess. She was always trying to kill herself. She was always gone in a hospital. So 80% of the time when I did see her she was in a mental institution, so I had already made that connection that it was a potential in my future. So growing up I spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like. Would you be watching TV one day and suddenly you are in the TV. Talking to people and them not understanding you. And to this day if somebody looks at me like they don’t know what I am talking about or think I am crazy I shake, and get really frightened and I am 42 years old. But the process of putting this show together I believe that she wasn’t actually mentally ill. She had some depression issues for sure. But I think the doctors prescribed more and more drugs and became a drug addict. I have a lot of respect for psychiatric medicine, but the brain is an infinitely complex thing, and I think they kept pushing her further away from the one thing that could help her which was love. She never had any piece of mind.”

I guess thirty years ago they would lock people up who these days would be considered ADHD or bi-polar…

“..or eccentric or wacky or just different. They just think differently. They are not dangerous or certifiable. People used to get burned as witches for being good singers or being able to dress a wound in Aloe Vera.”

It’s clearly a very powerful show. Cathartic for you and very moving for your audience, some of who come to see Crazy Enough over and over.

“It still boggles my mind. I still can’t put my finger on the appeal to people and I sort of don’t want to know. I’ve had a lot of people who have experienced some of the things that I have a lot of psychiatrists and councillors want to talk to me after the show and share their stories with me. It’s not an uncommon story but it resonates with so many people as something they have experienced. It’s like this show gives people some release, or permission to grieve and celebrate their flaws. Some people have felt like they have been fucked up their whole lives and then they realise that they just don’t look like their neighbours. But show me somebody who is completely buttoned up, together and normal and they are fucked. The straightest, most well heeled person is the one going to the dominatrix and having a Black Harvey shoved up their ass while they get beat with a rolled up newspaper. It doesn’t make them crazy either. Life isn’t about being safe or normal. You have to let yourself lose it. Life is messy and life is crazy. Life is confusing and lonely and scary. We walk around trying to keep our shit together but sometimes you just can’t. And that is the thing that scares us, the idea that we won’t come back. That it won’t be alright and people will stop loving us and we will die alone. It’s just not the case. I think the reason people like the show is that I show my throat. When people look at me they see some hot, fuckin’ pin-up, tits and ass, I get whatever I want, I look kind of glamorous in pictures, but I am a fucking mess. I have been on my knees. I have done terrible things to myself to feel a scrap of love and that I belong somewhere. I have allowed terrible things to happen to me out of feeling that I don’t belong. Ultimately though it makes me realise I do belong, because everybody does that on some level.”

Superficially people would see you as a strong and beautiful person confident in your physicality and sexuality. I notice on the Wikipedia page you are described as ‘sexually omnivorous’.

“Ha ha ha. Yeah they wouldn’t let me put opportunistically omnivorous because it made me sound too whore-ish.”

Whilst some of the stuff covered in her show is quite dark it’s also full of love & bawdy humour. She famously swears like a trooper and if the video for Eight Miles Wide is anything to go by then it may well ruffle a few feathers in the Festival Centre. The instantly catchy chorus means I’m predicting the biggest sing-a-long at the theatre since Sing-A-Long Sound of Music. I have been annoying the neighbours singing it at the top of my lungs for days.

“That’s great!” says Storm “It’s one of the great things about living in the internet age. is that I can make a video with my friends in Portland and you can be annoying your neighbours with it in Australia. Before the internet, you would have had no idea how wide my vagina was! (laughter).”

WTF? You may well be thinking. I thought this was an interview with a rock cabaret performer whose show is about mental illness? Well it is, but it’s also very funny, raunchy and cheeky. The song in question is about empowerment and has a chorus that goes.

“My vagina is eight miles wide

Absolutely everybody can come inside

If you frightened you can run and hide

My vagina is eight miles wide.”

There’s a great nod to The Pixies Gigantic towards the end, that I am sure would be appreciated by Kim Deal.

After singing for twenty years with bands like Storm & the Balls, doing original material and covers by Bon Jovi, Billy Idol, Motorhead she finds herself sharing the Cabaret festival with somebody else she used to cover, headliner Olivia Newton-John.

“I KNOW I can’t believe that. It’s pretty weird – I want to sing Hopelessly Devoted to her!”

I hope she gets the chance.

Storm Large Crazy Enough has three shows only at the Space Theatre on June 23-25 and one show in Sydney at the Vanguard on June 29 and June 30 in Melbourne at Red Bennies.

Ian Bell