24 May 2014

Balladic icons

It was called Icons and the songs certainly were. This was a group of singers from the ANU School of Music performing pop songs: five women and one man. Tate Sheridan was the man, and at one stage he argued for the depth of the popular song, being about love and life. I can easily agree, at least with this set of songs, but then they are the cream of the cream: Elton John, Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Kate Bush (who is more visible again recently, and must have been a challenge and fascination for these women). They sang 19 songs over two sets in Biginelli's Cafe, upstairs in the School of Music. This was civilised with cafe tables and provided with antipasto, and it was generous. I was not surprised by the age of the attendees (the performers were younger) and the music fitted. These were great songs, no doubt, but also none too recent. No grunge here, let alone hip-hop. These were also overwhelmingly ballads with overt seriousness. Perhaps too serious rather than entertaining. I'm more worried about climate change and the recent budget than love stories, but then I'm a bloke and past a time of hormones. There were some wonderful harmonies to such special songs. There were arrangements, some digging deeper into introversion. I loved the Kate Bush by both Rachael Thoms and Bec Taylor. Rachael especially had me poring over every controlled note and liquid vibrato and precise embellishment in Wuthering Heights. It shows that she's the teacher here, opera trained and an older (but not old) woman with a mature voice. They tell me that singers' voices improve with age and it's not just a matter of technique and experience. Not just that, though. She's jazz trained and was playful and daring when she performed a version of Come together with loops for bass and drums and harmonies and used effects for an authentic guitar solo. Fun and astonishing and obviously new for many in the crowd. [Hint: TC Helicon]. I loved Tate's commitment and unexpectedly decent voice and his dissonances and flexibility on piano. Seriously good. When he was playing Your song, I was reminded how the best musicians can just play the tune with all the right lines and chords and feels. Weaker musicians twist tunes because that's what they know. Tate was just spot on. Ben Taylor is a local star of the Canberra Musicians Club but I've heard her too little. I enjoyed her professionalism and presence and some decent piano and voice, and particularly admired her take on Babooshka. She did Joni Mitchell's Woodstock, too, and this was apt. Kirrah Amosa, Jacqui Douglas and Amy Jenkins perform as a trio called Kaleid (pronounced as in collide) and it was obvious that they'd played together a bit. These are quite different voices. Kirrah's is deep and powered, Jacqui higher and Amy in the stars and it works nicely together. Kirrah also accompanies on guitar and Jacqui on piano. As Kaleid they performed Carole King's Natural woman, but they also supported each other otherwise. The final song was Let it be, and everyone was up and we could sing along and wave electronic candles and that was fun. It was pretty serious stuff for an older bloke, but it certainly was a wonderful collection of songs which most of the audience remembered from their first releases and there were some great performances to convey them. Much enjoyed and would gladly do this over. Then it ended and Tate ran off, with me in hot pursuit...

Icons was a celebration of the great singer / songwriters of our time, performed by Tate Sheridan (piano, vocals), Jacqui Douglas (piano, vocals), Amy Jenkins (piano, vocals), Kirrah Amosa (guitar, vocals), Bec Taylor (piano, vocals) and Rachael Thoms (piano, vocals). Kirrah, Jacqui and Amy also performed as Kaleid.

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