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

Sunday, June 15, 2014

COLIN HAY Adelaide Cabaret Festival 13 June 2014

Dunstan Playhouse
June 13-15

Colin Hay walks onto the stage to an instrumental version of Down Under. "That is my favourite version of that song, The South Australia Primary Schools Orchestra.". We are all on side immediately, before he's even played a note. He picks up a guitar and starts to play Wayfaring Sons. "My name is Colin Hay and I was born in a town on the south west coast of Scotland." and proceeds to tell a lovely story about his family's move to Australia, and when he gets the sentence "We arrived on the 13th of June 1967, 47 years ago to the day" everybody loves him, and he has not even started to sing.

When a band has the kind of mega-success that Men At Work had in the early 1980's it easy for them to be relegated to the musical junk bonds of 'one-hit wonder'. The reason that band and those songs were such a huge success the world over was there was more to them than Down Under. They had a great sound, fantastic songs (mostly penned by Hay) and at their peak Men at Work's debut album was number one on the US Billboard charts for FIFTEEN weeks. Think about that for a minute. Who has a number one album for three and a half months any more? That kind of fame is still fleeting though and Hay's excellent Cabaret Festival show is peppered with hilarious, well-told anecdotes about the highs and lows of being mistaken for the guy from A Flock of Seagulls, or people thinking your big hit was Turning Japanese. The stories are fantastic, like a self-deprecating stand up show, and punctuated by excellent songs. Who Can It Be Now has a lovely sing-a-long part for us to join in on, and the audience response is deafening. Beautiful World from his 2002 Company of Strangers album, is a wonderful song about simple pleasures of life, preceded by a hysterical story about shark attacks. That combo really sums up this show in many respects.

"Sometimes people still shout out 'play Down Under', and I always think '@#$% me I never thought of that, good idea pal'". He tells a quite long and laugh-filled story to introduce his biggest hit and the only mention of the controversial copyright case is right before he starts to sing: "Here's a song we wrote, no matter what you might read". As 'one hit wonder' or 'novelty' songs go, Down Under is still head and shoulders above the crowd. It is a celebration, it name checks Kombi's, vegemite sandwiches, the land of plenty and you have heard it a million times, but it still holds up as a solid timeless classic song.

While the iconic songs are the obvious crowd favourites, it's on lesser known gems like There's Water Over You and the as-yet unreleased Scattered In The Sand, that you see the true talent of the man. Hay's voice is rich and emotive, his guitar playing beautiful. When he introduces I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You, a heartbreaking tale of lost love, he can't resist pulling the rug out of his own song's emotional weight. "But you do though, get over people. One day you wake up and think, actually I feel pretty good".

Waiting For My Real life To Begin seems to be a pivotal song for Mr Hay. Not only about waiting for the highlife to come back to you, but the realization that waiting til the time is right is a false economy. The time to do things, any things, is now. This is your real life. Right here and right now. And tonight in this place Colin Hay is one of the great joys of our real lives.

He finishes with a great with an exhilarating version of Men At Work's Overkill (covered so brilliantly by Perfect Tripod only days earlier in their Cabaret festival show) and the beautiful A Simple Song.
Songwriter, singer, funny man, raconteur - Colin Hay was an exceptional inclusion to this festival. He has two remaining shows this weekend. Consider yourself recommended to go.

Ian Bell


Wayfaring Sons
Who Can It Be
Beautiful World
Down Under
There's Water Over You
Scattered In The Sand (unreleased)
I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You
Waiting For My Real Life To Begin
A Simple Song

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Festival Theatre
9 June, one show only

It looked like it might be a bit too, y'know, serious, this meeting of two of Australia's greatest musical comedy acts. Tripod have been together for almost two decades and have been combining laser precision comedy, tight musical skills and mad harmonies for that entire time. Eddie Perfect has been together for ages too and through his shows like Shane Warne The Musical has demonstrated his own impressive vocal range. Combined together they complement and enhance each other and bring an incredible range and texture to their music. They had done a song together on the Tripod Christmas CD a few years ago and after another collaboration on Meet Me In The Middle of the Air for a project of cabaret artists doing Paul Kelly songs, started to hatch idea of a show that showcased their combined and considerable vocal talents. This is that show, Australian Songs.

I once saw an acapella outfit called The Nylons who, when asked what acapella meant replied, "It's Italian for how to save money on the band". There is something utterly fantastic about people making beautiful music with nothing but the sound of human voices. All cultures sing. Massed singing is a major part of most religions and tonight is almost a religious experience. I love doo-wop, I love acapella, I will even admit to having a soft spot for American Collegiate Choirs. It can be horrendous, cheesy and embarrassing, but when acapella is good it is heavenly. And make no mistake, heaven is exactly where Perfect Tripod is taking the close-to-sold-out Festival Theatre tonight.

They enter the stage and launch into Waltzing Matilda which then segues into Gotye's Heart's a Mess. And right from the start it's remarkable. Perfect's subsonic baritone gives the arrangements a deep and rich bottom end, and leaves The Podsters to do all the mids and highs. They mention early on that one review described this show as "Tripod with balls"; fair call. The song selection is genius. Yes, there are songs by Australian Crawl, Men at Work, The Bee Gees and (as Gatesy is keen to flag early in the show) Little River Band, but they have mostly not gone for obvious choices. So when they do Oz Crawl, they choose Errol over Beautiful People or Boys Light Up. It's followed up by Men At Work's Overkill, not their biggest hit, but a fantastic song nonetheless and a smashing arrangement.

Anybody worried about there not being enough 'funny' in the show was soon relieved at the between-song banter and in-song visual gags, changed lyrics, and hilarious choreography. Silverchair's Straight Lines, was written by Daniel Johns, we are reminded during the song in four part harmony. Kylie's Better The Devil You Know is reconfigured as a doo-wop number and Lanie Lane's Oh Well That's What You Get Falling in Love With a Cowboy is a highlight, with Perfect in a cowboy hat grinding suggestively at people in the front row. While introducing the heartbreakingly beautiful Claire Bowditch song The One, Yon says "Just because you are in a relationship, married or whatever, doesn't mean that one day you won't see somebody in a bar that you could totally go to town on. This song is about that". It's a gorgeous song about meeting somebody you know you could, but you know you can't.

Perfect then takes lead on Tripod's fantastic original The Blueprint and then Tripod take the driver's seat of a Perfect original, What Are You Going To Do To Me Next. Which brings us to Gatesys LRB number. Reminiscing is one of the most played songs in radio history, and the song Frank Sinatra called the most romantic song ever written. However, I suspect the version Frank heard wasn't peppered with the backing vocalists working in the phrase 'shut up' all the way through it.

Some of these songs are not on the CD for sale in the foyer afterwards (along with tea towels and stubbie holders), which leads one to be hopeful that Perfect Tripod maybe an on-going, if occasional, project in its own right. The Reels Quasimodo's Dream is a case in point, and as a fan of Dave Mason's work for several decades this is a 'reel' highpoint for me. It's magnificent. The Bee Gees How Deep is Your Love lets the Podsters go all falsetto on us before they break out the National anthem. Their version of You're The Voice is hilarious. Replacing big chunks of the musical backing with them singing "Johnny Farnham, Johnny Farnham" has everybody howling with laughter and yet they it hold together musically all the way through.

They return for Meet You In The Middle of the Air, which is incredible. You could hear a pin drop as the entire auditorium is enraptured with the dizzying beauty of the song and this astounding performance. The applause is deafening. They finish up by getting the audience to join in with three-part harmony on Archie Roach's Little By Little and remarkably it works really well. The standing ovation is richly deserved.       

Turns out to make a perfect tripod, you need eight legs.

Ian Bell

Sunday, June 8, 2014

THE BOSWELL PROJECT - Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2014

The Boswell Project
Ballroom, Festival Theatre
June 8 & 9 only.

There are not masses of local acts in this years Cabaret Festival, but this one, is amazing. In the 1930's three musical sisters from New Orleans, created a unique form of three part close harmony jazz. They did their own arrangements, organized their own tour, traveled without chaperons, worked and influenced many people who are legends who legends 80 years later, so how come you've never heard of them?

The Boswell Project featuring the substantial talents of Louise Messenger, Kylie Ferreira and Valeska Laity as well as a crack combo of five of Adelaide finest jazz musicians, do an amazing job of recreating this unique sound and breath new life into the Boswell's music and story. Most people have heard of The Andrews Sisters, well they got their start as a Boswell cover band. Ella Fitzgerald's idol was Connie Boswell. But in the 1930's there was no TV, limited radio and so forth, so it was a lot harder to reach a mass audience. So unless you have hunting for them they have fallen through the cracks of musical history to some degree, and it looked like they were doomed to be forgotten.

Well not if these three plucky gals from Adelaide have anything to say about it. This show is put together with a lot of love, attention to detail and good humour. The vocals are nothing short of heavenly, the band is impeccable and the banter between songs is informative and often hilarious. There are unique versions of songs you should know already (It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing) and songs you really ought to (Coffee in The Morning and Kisses in the Night). There is some great shtick, special guests and some mean nose trumpet (trust me).

The reception is enthusiastic and by the shows conclusion thunderous.

They have been invited to perform in New Orleans at a Boswell themed event later in the year and are running a Pozible fundraising campaign to get them there. Details can be found at

Terrific show and one that the performers and Adelaide should be extremely proud of.

Ian Bell.