Tag: Sia

REVIEW: Melbourne Festival Presents KATIE NOONAN’S VANGUARD

Evocative, experimental and enthralling

By Jessica Cornish

Kicking off her 2015 national tour promoting her latest crowd-funded record, Katie Noonan performed last weekend at Melbourne Festival’s Foxtel Hub. Back to her roots and travelling with trio of talented band mates Stu Hunter (keys), Declan Kelly (drummer), and Peter Koopman (guitarist), now known as Vanguard,  Noonan and her musicians performed a beautiful late-night set in the heart of Melbourne.

Katie Noonan

Armed with her percussive wooden cylinder, drum sticks, keyboard and an array of gaudy silver-animal bling, she belted out a mix of originals from her latest album Transmutant and some older songs such as ‘Sweet One’ written with world-famous artist Sia when they were both living in L.A. a decade ago, struggling with the image-obsessed and at times brutal music industry, and realising that they were part of each other’s strongest support networks.

It was definitely not your typical pop set – or even jazz for that matter, and I couldn’t even hum you back any melody featured in her songs. I think her works are best described as a mix of electronic pop-like ballads, incorporating many different textures of sounds and rhythm using synthesisers and pedal effects. At times the songs seemed to drift aimlessly with no real sense of purpose or direction and on reflection many of the songs seemed similar and merged into each other. However all her songs appeared to be of a highly personal nature and were reflections on those close to her life. She expressed her love for her two sons and their ability to find joy in daily life, and her distress dealing with the grief of the steady deterioration of her father’s health. Noonan’s voice is definitely a highlight of the performance, truly a stunning instrument and as perfect as any polished recording you could hear playing. She has a breathy, yet gutsy voice gliding in to her higher vocal range, so ultimately her songs trap you in the moment, and left me listening intently to every word and note she produced. To be honest it was hard to concentrate on anything else that was going on, including the funky LED-panelled backdrop and flashing lights.

Through out the evening Katie was incredibly engaging and honest with us as her audience. The night seemed more like a cabaret, providing insight in to the singer’s life and the people who surround her in everyday situations. She took the time to explain the backstory to all her songs (and I even learnt that the German super market ALDI never play music in their stores because they don’t want to pay licencing fees). That tale of continuous silence was even the springboard for another one of Katie’s latest musical creations featured in the hub that evening. Her interaction with her band mates was also really genuine and their close rapport was really nice to watch, as so often musicians go unnoticed by their well-known vocalists. She even performed a song she had written as a wedding gift for Hunter.

The Foxtel Hub was a great venue, it was intimate, had a punchy lighting rig and really clear, high quality sound. It was a real treat to see such an iconic Australian performer as part of the Melbourne Festival, and to top it off, while waiting for the doors to open, my Dad and I were inundated with complimentary alcohol and food tastings from local Melbourne restaurants. A lovely night out in all.


REVIEW: Sophie Walsh-Harrington is HOT

In search of the sequel to success

By Bradley Storer

After her incredibly successful debut cabaret, The Damsel in Shining Armour (winner of Best Cabaret Adelaide Fringe 2011), Sophie Walsh-Harrington returns to Melbourne with her new show HOT. Crafting a follow-up is a massive task as Sophie herself is obviously aware – the first segment of HOT acts as both a funeral and exorcism of the success of Damsel, Sophie entering in mourning black, greeting individual audience members like attendees at a wake, brandishing her Fringe award in their faces.

Those coming expecting similar fare to Damsel should be forewarned: Sophie continuously informs the audience, via bullhorn, that ‘this is not a cabaret’. Instead we are taken through Sophie’s travails to leave behind her cabaret past and become a ‘serious’ artist, ranging from attempts at monologue, mime and in one particularly hilarious segment, political donkey-themed agitprop anthems. Songs fromartists such as Paloma Faith, Muse and Sia are scattered throughout the show with fragments popping up like bad habits.

Sophie nevertheless retains the goof-ballish but headstrong innocence that made Damsel such a joy, which here keeps the audience on side even as the show takes a more confusing turn. Her vocals have only increased in power, which makes one sad about the relative lack of songs in comparison to her previous work – but in a show which she repeatedly proclaims is not a cabaret, this makes sense.

The show’s major theme is a continuation from Damsel: the attempt to live an authentic life – in this case the struggle of artists to maintain artistic originality and legitimacy in the wake of enormous success. Sophie shamelessly parodies artistic self-indulgence as the show moves into the realm of ‘serious’ theatre. 

The culmination of this endeavour is a lengthy, ‘Animal Farm’-style play. Despite Sophie’s uproarious characterizations and comically expressive physicality, this section began to drag the further it went along – even though this links in with the overall thematic structure of the show, self-indulgence (whether real or simulated) is only funny for so long.

However at the climax of the show, the accumulated superficiality collapses in on itself as if by magic. Sophie seems to rise from the debris of the dissembled show like a phoenix, with a spontaneous rendition of Des’ree’s ‘Kissing You’ so powerful it held the audience completely spellbound. For this alone HOT is worth seeing, reiterating not only Sophie’s incredible skill as a cabaret artist but reassembling what has come before in the show into a true, electrifying moment of artistic rebirth.

HOT stands as a riotous examination of the downsides of creative success, in its own way as cunningly and cleverly structured (if not more so) as its predecessor, and, if the finale is anything to go by, promises even greater achievement and success for Sophie’s future. What is perhaps required is a bigger audience for this show to burn at its brightest.  

HOT plays at La Mama Theatre until March 4, 8:30pm Wed/Sun, 9:30pm Thur-Sat

Directed by Alex Wright, backing tracks performed and engineered by Jason Odle

Tickets: (03) 9347 6142 or www.lamama.com.au