Category: Music

Mojo Juju Sings ‘Native Tongue’

Mojo Juju previews unreleased album ‘Native Tongue’ live 

By Lois Maskiell

Mojo Juju’s voice has the smoothness of velvet and the texture of gravel and based on the live preview of her upcoming album, ‘Native Tongue’, it’s clear her voice is as rich and dynamic as ever. Mojo ‘Juju’ Ruiz de Luzuriaga’s voice is doubly rich in music and message, her latest show – which is part of Arts Centre Melbourne’s Big World, Up Close program – features a collection of profoundly personal songs that unearth her heritage growing up in the small town of Dubbo with her mother of Wiradjuri decent and Filipino father. Using storytelling and autobiography, this musical protest is a show of eclectic and soulful tunes that celebrate family and diversity, while also raising a fist against social inequalities.

With four albums under her belt, Mojo’s signature twang has evolved over the course of two albums with the punk-speakeasy outfit, The Snake Oil Merchants, and two solo albums (Mojo Juju, Seeing Red/Feeling Blue). The show opens with her latest single, ‘Native Tongue’ – see here for the film clip – which is a potent number backed by the Pasefika Vitoria Choir. Accompanied by her brother, Steven Ruiz de Luzuriaga on drums and Yeo on base, the music is an original concoction of live and electronic instruments that mix organic and voltaic sounds.

Mojo’s driving riffs could easily have a dance floor pumping, though she can still deliver a ballad with intoxicating charm. ‘One Thousand Years’ filled the auditorium with its languorous melody and dense tenderness that could only be experienced live. A seasoned frontwoman, Mojo segues from one song to another, inserting anecdotes about life in Dubbo and how otherness, racism and feelings of not belonging shaped her youth. One twist in Mojo’s lineage involves a long-hidden relationship between her great-grandmother and a Wiradjuri man that significantly affected her mother’s family. Mojo reveals herself as a supreme storyteller by skillfully recounting the situation via three songs, each told from a different perspective. It’s a haunting tale of young love and heartache, that plunges deep into her family history.

The storytelling and autobiography embedded in Mojo’s songwriting carry a crucial social message: to unashamedly speak up against racism and discrimination. “If you want to call me something, call it to my face. But I will not apologise for taking up this space,” she sings.  Mojo reminds her audience that her story is not special, but rather common for many living in Australia. Though uniquely, Mojo’s talent as a singer, songwriter and performer brings these common experiences to audiences today.

Mojo Juju: Native Tongue performs in:
Melbourne 8 – 11 August at Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne as part of Big World, Up Close. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.
Sydney 19 August at Sydney Opera House as part of UnWrapped. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 02 9250 7111.


Guy Pearce Live: The Nomad

Guy Pearce launches second album

By Owen James

Guy Pearce is well known for his work on the silver screen: he is undeniably a cherished, locally grown talent. (Born in Geelong!) But how many people know that this household name has an incredible voice and writes powerful, original music?

For one night only, Guy Pearce launched his second album, The Nomad, surrounded by a group of very talented musicians at Arts Centre Melbourne. He peppered stories and conversation between most songs, often explaining the emotional history behind each tune. Guy Pearce is so comfortable onstage it relaxes every person in this room of hundreds, allowing every word of storytelling – spoken or musical – to find its truth.

If you’ve never heard it (and you should), Guy Pearce’s music and his unique, powerful voice remind me most of classic ‘70’s Bowie. Pearce’s music soars as if it’s flying – sometimes through a clear sky, and sometimes through heavy, grey clouds. He declares many times throughout that The Nomad was born out of heartache and despair, after his marriage ended in 2015 – and while most tunes are undoubtedly melancholy, Pearce’s raw joy in performing them for us is empowering and uplifting.

Pearce’s lyrics are an exploration of truth and humanity. He thrusts his whole heart into these songs as a true performer, but still carefully allows the lyrics space to breathe, giving us a chance to reflect on their meaning and our own interpretation.

The gorgeous set by Jacob Battista could have been straight out of Twin Peaks, and really created the comfortable atmosphere for the night. Dozens of lampshades were suspended above the stage, and when joined with armchairs, curtains, and a faux brick wall, the relaxed, conversational loungeroom atmosphere truly came to life.

Guy Pearce performed 8 July at Arts Centre Melbourne. His album The Nomad is available now on streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music) and for purchase both digitally and in-store.

Tubular Bells for Two

Mike Oldfield’s horror-film-famous score performed by two

 By Leeor Adar

Mike Oldfield’s debut masterpiece, Tubular Bells, sent shivers through our dreams for decades after its feature in the 1973 film, The Exorcist. Oldfield’s record was the first release of Virgin Records, where the ever-entrepreneurial Richard Branson took a chance on Oldfield’s unusual sound.

It’s worth noting here that the piece in its entirety is so much more varied and beautiful than those first few notes that became horror-film-famous. Any progressive rock aficionado listening to the whole recording would have to admit its multitude of instruments and complexities make it a hard live performance.

How about performed in its entirety by two?

The concept is kind of insane, but it has been a successful endeavour by Daniel Holdsworth and Aidan Roberts, who co-created the performance in 2010 and were surprised at the appetite of their Sydney Fringe Festival audience. It not only become a sell out show, but also received the Best Music Moment award. After performing extensively through Europe and the United States, Daniel Holdsworth returns with a new partner in madness, Thomas Bamford, for this year’s Australian tour.

In all frankness, I did not know what to expect. I have a strong familiarity with Mike Oldfield’s music through my mother, who sailed this globe through the 1970’s and is a bonafide authority on very cool music of the era. It was a treat to hear Tubular Bells live, and performed by two men with 20 instruments.

Full house again on the Saturday night performance at the Melbourne Arts Centre, and the audience was transfixed, whether on their heydays, or just awed by the sound and the sheer hard work of Holdsworth and Bamford. It’s a sight to behold, as the men expertly craft the sound and attempt to keep true to Oldfield’s music. It is an exercise in fortitude, as Tubular Bells demands its maker’s rhythm and soul. One moment Holdsworth is smashing his drums and growling, and the next on guitar churning out such peaceful melodies.

Tubular Bells for Two is a must-see for music fans anywhere in the world. The music if fantastic, and even where a moment is missed, as my mother keenly pointed out, it was breathtaking to watch. Holdsworth regaled the audience with some of their tour stories, including the man who found him after a show and pointed out all the times the music they performed did not exactly meet the timing of Oldfield’s piece.

For the kooky diehard fans, they will absolutely enjoy Tubular Bells for Two for the reminiscence, and emerging fans will love the performance and music.

Both will agree that it is an engaging, sometimes funny, and totally skilled performance.

Tubular Bells for Two was performed at Melbourne Arts Centre 15 – 16 June as part of their tour of Victoria and New South Wales that runs until 14 July. For a full list of tour dates and ticket information take a look at the Tubular Bells official website.

Australian Chamber Choir Presents Mozart’s Requiem

The famously unfinished choral work reaches spectacular heights

By Leeor Adar 

The sheer uplifting majesty of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem sends shivers down the spine of the audience, because no matter how many times the choral numbers feature in ads, or our cinematic memories, nothing is quite as breathtaking as hearing it live before you in the echo chamber of a place of worship.

The Requiem’s completion is notoriously debated, as 25-year-old Franz Xaver Süssmayr completed what is approximate to one third of the work after the sudden death of Mozart in 1791.  Süssmayr’s finishing work is masterful in itself, although it is unclear if Mozart left some direction to the youngster. The overall piece, true to Mozart’s form, ends with a glorious fury, so Süssmayr certainly stayed true to the master, and it is performed and marvelled at centuries later.

Taking on its sheer intensity, the Australian Chamber Choir (ACC) accompanied by the Melbourne Baroque Orchestra performed its final show of Mozart’s Requiem at the Scots’ Church Melbourne on Sunday 22 of April to a brimming audience. The piece was previously performed in Castlemaine and Macedon, finally ending the tour with gusto in Melbourne.

The ACC under artistic direction of Douglas Lawrence OAM has attracted great talent over the years since its inception in 2007.  Lawrence’s ability to commission new works from Australia’s talented up-and-coming composers certainly garners respect. With a multitude of tours through Europe, the ACC was recognised in 2015 as honorary life members to Denmark’s oldest classical music festival, the Sorø International Music Festival, cementing its place amongst the classical music elite.

One current standout talent coming through the ACC is soprano Elspeth Bawden, who joined the choir in 2016. Bawden has been admitted into the Royal College of Music in London, and it is no surprise with her rich and beautiful clarity of voice that such an opportunity should present itself to her. Bawden’s solo contributions to the Requiem are heavenly in their sound and character. Bawden is accompanied by wonderful fellow soloists, Oliver Mann (bass baritone), Timothy Reynolds (tenor), and Elizabeth Anderson (contralto).

The rhythmic beauty of all the voices came to the fore in the Kyrie, which followed with an arresting Sequentia Dies Irae. The Dies Irae is possibly one of the most recognised and magnificent pieces of choral work, imposing itself like a battle cry upon its audience. In contrast, the moving fragility of the Agnus Dei, takes the audience to a most heavenly height.

Having experienced an array of emotions, I exited the church with a classical music and Mozart enthusiast who exclaimed, “that, was amongst the best I’ve heard.”

Mozart’s Requiem was performed in Castlemaine, Macedon and closed in Melbourne 22 April. To learn more about the ACC visit their official website.

The Thin White Ukes Present The Other Songs of David Bowie

The Thin White Ukes prove that ukuleles can, and do, rock and rock hard in The Other Songs of David Bowie.

By Narelle Wood 

The combination of David Bowie and ukuleles does not seem like it should work, after all the ukulele is most commonly known for its island sounds or as a kid’s instrument. The Thin White Ukes prove that this is anything but the case; ukuleles can, and do, rock and rock hard.

The three-piece ukulele ensemble consisting of Betty France (soprano uke), Michael Dwyer (tenor uke) and Robert Stephens (baritone uke) have put together a playlist of some of Bowie’s lesser known hits with some old familiar favourites thrown in, including Moonage dream, Slip away, Andy Warhol, Fame and Space Odyssey. One of the things that stood out in this performance was how their arrangements highlighted the intricate rhythms and chord progressions of Bowie’s music, reminding me what a musical genius Bowie was, how hard his music is to play and demonstrating just how talented these ukulele players actually are.

The hour show was pure music, with no additional storylines or gimmicks, only a couple of lightning bolts, a silver jumpsuit and some pretty captivating performance skills from all three band members, but especially France. The Butterfly Club is a small venue but you definitely get the feeling that France could hold an audience no matter what the venue size.

It is really hard to pick a favourite moment of the show, I would have been quite happy – along with most of the audience it seems – to sit there for at least another hour. In saying that I was really quite taken with the performances of both Slip away and I’m Afraid of Americans: the combination of the songs, the arrangements, performance and ukuleles were perfect.

There is so much to like about this show and it is safe to say that I will be seeking out all The Thin White Uke shows in the future. I never got to see Bowie perform live, but this may be the next best thing.

The Other Songs of David Bowie plays at The Butterfly Club until 4 March.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9663 8107.

Midsumma Presents John Barrowman in Concert

Hamer Hall hosts a glittery Captain

By Owen James

While most of Melbourne was screaming at the Australian Open, 2500 people were screaming at international star, John Barrowman. For one night only Hamer Hall played host to the international star made famous by Doctor Who, Torchwood, Arrow and numerous West End and Broadway shows. Adorned in glitter from head to toe, Barrowman could say anything to his Melbourne crowd and have it received with both rapturous applause and cheers louder than the music.

Journeying across a world of musical styles, Barrowman never stayed in one stylistic continent for long. Over almost three-hours, we were treated to musical theatre, pop, rock, jazz and even a traditional Scottish ballad. His Australian seven-piece band were more than capable of seamlessly transitioning from genre to genre, backing Barrowman’s powerful vocals with punch and passion. This seven-piece band were in fact so capable that the pre-recorded backing vocals and synthesised strings were largely unnecessary and at times, distracting. Perhaps a second keyboard might have better provided those additional sounds – so that although synthesised, at least they were performed live alongside all other music.

Barrowman himself provided an unforgettably energetic performance, entertaining every seat in the house. The incredible power and timbre of his voice transcended genre and would have surely amazed those who knew Barrowman only for his screen roles. Scattered between songs were anecdotes and stories of what life as the famous John Barrowman is really like. His love and passion for all things important in his life: equality, music, his pets and his family, shined stronger than his sequins (if that’s possible).

After a third standing ovation, Barrowman conceded to an unplanned third encore – a simple piano ballad satiating his hungry crowd. Barrowman promised numerous times of his plans to come back to Melbourne soon with a “bigger and better” show, featuring dancers and more singers. So John, if you’re reading this – please do.

John Barrowman in Concert ran for one night only on 16 January, 2018 for the Midsumma Festival.


For the love of Lynch

By Tania Herbert

A gig touting “The Music of Twin Peaks” is always going to bring out the cool creatures, and this was a solid display of Melbourne’s pre-hipster arthouse crowd. The show opens with a projection screen looking up a staircase, with a revolving fan and fading light. A deep booming repetitive base note sounds out for several minutes.

Xiu Xiu.jpg

Then enter Xiu Xiu, an insanely good-looking trio of artists (Jamie Stewart, Angela Seo and Shayna Dunkelman), who take us through a reinterpretation of the music, sounds and poetry in a musical episode of David Lynch’s cult masterpiece Twin Peaks.

The gig was an extremely theatrical and slick program of music, with pieces floating between romantic classical to smooth jazz, to grunge rock to experimental soundscape – with a bit of spoken word in case there wasn’t already enough range.

Rich, complex, even funny in moments, the quirky mystery and depth of Twin Peaks was caught in full. The multimedia was simple, but cool and ambient and complemented the wonderful performance and wacky onstage antics the performers added to each number.

It wasn’t a great start in terms of sound – the balance was way off, with ear-piercing percussion meaning the piano couldn’t be heard, feedback issues and indecipherable vocals. However, credit to the sound crew – it was rapidly sorted through the first couple of numbers, after which the balance was spot on to bring out the most interesting parts of what was often a cacophony of sound.  The vocal clarity was never quite resolved, though this was only a slight detraction from a masterful musical performance.

The gig was supported by a work by Alessandro Cortini from Italy, with a 45-minute sonic-dreamscape composition set to Italian Super-8 home videos from the family archives of the artist. The piece was all about the contrast – videos of children playing the snow or families at the beach against the extreme intense music – creating a set-up where you found yourself feeling intense anticipation for what was to happen next, even though these were simple home movies. Musically, it’s a style I personally find becomes repetitive and I didn’t feel it built much – it felt more like an interactive museum piece, but was certainly a good ‘stage setter’ for the show to come.

Looking around midway through Xiu Xiu’s performance, I see a crowd of arty people in a high- domed, red-velvet-draped reclaimed electrical substation, all standing stock-still and staring upwards, mesmerised by black and white footage of a ceiling fan and a series of random noises… it was deliciously David Lynch-y.

Xiu Xiu was a reminder that the music of Twin Peaks is definitely concert-worthy – particularly when captured in such a great piece of musical performance art.

Xiu Xiu is playing tonight (Friday 23 June as a double bill with Sarah Davachi (Canada)

Date:       Thu 22 – Fri 23 June, 8pm
Tickets:   $45 plus booking fee