Speakeasy vagabonds and wartime songbirds
By Kim Edwards
Indie-pop meets wartime swing harmonies as The Tiger and Me, a stunning and atmospheric band of great vocalists and multi-instrumentalists, and The Nymphs, a female quartet with sensational harmonies and style, join forces for the Melbourne Cabaret Festival.
Merging the astonishing talents last night of artists Jane Hendry, Ade Vincent, Tobias Selkirk, Gerard Mason, Tim Keegan, Sarah Galdes, Clare Hendry, Rebekah Chapman and Kelly Day was beautifully slick and musically sophisticated as the groups both traded songs and joined together to perform swing, jazz, torch songs, and elegant indie reinterpretations of unexpected music from the last seventy years.
The atmosphere created was exactly right for a smoky and seductive speakeasy, with simple clever costuming, a wonderful variety of instruments and voices blending sensually, and some sleek and sultry standout numbers such as Brother Can You Spare a Dime and Bei Mir Bist Du Schon.
Unfortunately however, although the musicians and vocalists were wonderfully in tune, the structure of this performance was in severe discord. With all respect to the nice older gentleman in the tux at the podium who provided the incongruous history book readings between every song, the clunky and incongruous lecture-like introductions and overhead projections constantly and irrevocably broke the delicately-evoked mood, and undermined any chance for us to get lost in the musical eras explored.
Cabaret is about interactions not introductions, and integrating music and script in subtle and organic ways. With such talented performers, presenting this history of music as personal anecdotes perhaps by the costumed characters and singing to the crowded audience rather than looking over our heads would prevent the feeling of distancing and disruption that is familiar in concerts and gigs, but so alien to the cabaret genre.
These assembled ensemble of artists ready create spectactular music and atmosphere for cabaret. When their format and scripting builds rather than unsettles this in the future – they will be remarkable.
You can still catch The Tiger and me and The Nymphs tonight and tomorrow 23/24 July @ 6.45pm, though at $33 / $30, tickets are selling out fast.
Performances at The Incubator, Auspicious Arts, 228 Bank Street Sth Melbourne (next to the town hall)