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

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