Thursday, July 06, 2017

Slow Dancer- In A Mood Tour

Slow Dancer celebrated the release of his second album In A Mood tonight with an album launch at The Gasometer Hotel. Opening the evening was Tim Harvey's latest project Real Feelings. The four piece band, which also contained Liam Halliwell from The Ocean Party, had some lengthy jams and a bit of a groove to their songs. Next up was POPPONGENE (aka Sophie Treloar) and her band, which had a very guitar-based sound with a bit of shoegaze at some points. We thought they sounded really good.

Slow Dancer (aka Simon Okley) was in his usual white jeans and jacket as he took to the stage with his band and started with "In The Water," the opening track off In A Mood. The crowd was very attentive and polite throughout his set, with highlights being "Don't Believe," "Bitter," "It Goes On" (which may be my favorite song released this year), and beautiful versions on acoustic guitar of "Please" and "I Would" that had everyone captivated. Simon joked that we were missing the start of the Tour de France coverage (which was amusing as I had a conversation with Ebony before he started playing about Peter Sagon's disqualification) and also acknowledged it was NAIDOC week. The evening finished with "Cornerstone" and the funniest moment of the night when Simon realised he forgot to take the capo off his guitar as he hit the first chorus. Unfortunately there wasn't an encore, but it's always an enjoyable experience to get to see Slow Dancer perform live.

Here's the video for "It Goes On":

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Kevin Chin - Refuge

This afternoon I went to the opening of Kevin Chin's latest exhibition Refuge at This Is No Fantasy + dianne tanzer gallery. Comprising five paintings, the exhibition focuses on the themes of journey, transition and sanctuary. It explores global migration, with time spent in Indonesia and Japan influencing the mixed sense of place in the works.

Kevin's paintings are very detailed with some abstract portions, and I really liked his use of bright colors. It was good to be able to catch up with both Kevin and his partner Clinton at the opening, and they will soon be heading off to the US as Kevin has an artist residency at Yellowstone National Park. Refuge runs until 25 July 2017.


Friday, June 16, 2017

REMI x Sampa The Great- Fire Sign Tour

REMI and Sampa The Great are on a co-headline tour around Australia and tonight was the sold out Melbourne show at 170 Russell. Opening the evening was DJ Mz Rizk (who also played tunes throughout the night in between sets). We were also treated to a great mini set by soul and R&B singer Thando, which included her own songs as well as a cover of Mary J Blige's "Enough Cryin."

The Dreaming Now did a Welcome to Country ahead of Sampa The Great taking the stage with DJ Ziggy and Sensible J on drums. She started her set most appropriately with "Intro." It was fantastic to finally get a chance to see Sampa live, and she had a brilliant performance with songs such as "Class Trip," "F E M A L E" and "The Plug." She invited a friend on stage to do some African dancing with her and also did a cover of the Fugees' "Fu-Gee-La." Her set finished with a portion of "Mona Lisa."

Next up was REMI and they started their set with "Forsaken Man." The crowd was really into his whole performance, especially the higher energy tracks like "Sangria," "XTC Party" and "Tyson." I really liked that Remi did some of his more socially conscious tracks like "Lose Sleep" and "Ode To Ignorance." They finished the set with one of my favorites off Diva & Demons "Substance Therapy."

REMI and Sampa The Great then came out for a joint set together, which included Sensible J's new track "Fire Sign" and their song together off REMI's album "For Good." To finish off the night everyone on the bill came out to sing and dance along to Kendrick Lamar's "Alright." This was a fantastic show and a great showcase of some of the talent in the Melbourne hip-hop community.

Here's the video for "For Good"

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sarah Blasko- The Soloist Tour

Despite being a solo artist, Sarah Blasko has never done a tour without a backing band before. Tonight her Soloist Tour came to the Melbourne Recital Centre. Opening support was provided by Cameron Avery, who played a set of his solo material alternating between keyboard and electric guitar. He also did a cover of Alexandra Savoir's "Girlie."

Sarah Blasko came out onto the stage and started with an a cappella version of "Down On Love." As she sat down at the piano she joked, "Welcome to my recital." The set list covered songs from throughout her career, but was mainly focused on her last three albums. As she played these stripped back arrangements using piano, samples, guitar and even ukulele, highlights included "I Awake," "Bury This," "I Wanna Be Your Man," "Beyond," "Luxurious" and "We Won't Run." Sarah had three microphones set up across the stage and was quite funny and silly as she moved between them for each song. Her voice soared in the acoustics of the venue, and the lighting and staging for this show was simple yet dramatic.

We were fortunate to get a preview of a few new tracks from her upcoming album, which sounded fantastic. As she came out for the encore she joked about encore anxiety and that she would only do three songs and then the show would be finished. We got to hear "All I Want," a cover of Cold Chisel's "Flame Trees," and "Perfect Now" from her first album. Sarah got a standing ovation from the crowd as she left the stage, and it was another amazing show from her.

Here's the video for "Luxurious" off Eternal Return:

Friday, June 09, 2017

An Evening With Bic Runga - MEMO Music Hall

It's been five years since Bic Runga last played in Melbourne, and tonight was the first of a two night run at St Kilda's MEMO Music Hall. Bic started the evening solo on acoustic guitar playing "Drive," "When I See You Smile" and "The Be All And End All" before being joined by her band, which included her partner Kody Nielson on drums. The songs played across the two sets covered material from throughout her career and her latest album Close Your Eyes, which is a mix of originals and covers. I really enjoyed her version of Nick Drake's "Things Behind The Sun" as well as the new original songs "Close Your Eyes" and "Dream A Dream."

Bic played some of my favorite tracks of hers, including "Get Some Sleep" "Listening For The Weather," "Winning Arrow" and "Something Good." We also got some rarely played live songs such as "This Girl's Prepared For War" and "Darkness All Around Us" off Belle, and the Beautiful Collision tracks "Gravity" and "Election Night," which I'm guessing was thrown into the set due to yesterday's UK election.

What really made this show special was the songs that were done with Natalia Mann on the concert harp, which enhanced the arrangements for "Precious Things," "Beautiful Collision," "Birds," "Captured" and "Bursting Through." As this year is the 20th anniversary of the release of the hit single "Sway," it was only appropriate that it closed out the second set. Bic was so happy to finally be able to come back to Australia and was really grateful for everyone coming out to see her. For an encore she attempted an audience request for "Gracie," but only made it part way through as she couldn't stop laughing at the lyrics which she wrote when she was 19 years old. All in all it was a great and intimate show, and hopefully Bic will make it back across the ditch sooner rather than later for another live performance.

Here's the video for "Close Your Eyes"

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

I Love The 90's Australian Tour

I got a call late this afternoon from Chantal that she and Shevonne had a spare ticket for the I Love The 90's concert at Hisense Arena tonight. Once I saw the line up I knew I couldn't say no as it was a list of late 80s and early 90s hip hop and R&B acts that I used to watch on MTV.

First up was Young MC, who did a rap to Midnight Oil's "Beds Are Burning" and of course played "Bust A Move." Next was Tone Loc, who not only played his hits "Funky Cold Medina" and "Wild Thing," but also did a cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice."

Three members of the boy band Color Me Badd hit the stage in matching outfits and sang their hits "All 4 Love," "I Adore Mi Amore" and "I Wanna Sex You Up," along with a cover of Blackstreet's "No Diggity." Coolio was the next act to play, and had a band with him. Their set included "Fantastic Voyage," "I'll C U When U Get There," "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" and "Gangsta's Paradise." They also did a bizarrely short tribute to Prince by playing the intro to "Purple Rain" but not the whole song.

The main act that everyone was there to see was Salt N Pepa with DJ Spinderella. Celebrating 31 years together, they played lots of their best known songs, including "Do You Want Me," "Shake Your Thang," "Let's Talk About Sex," "Shoop," "Whatta Man," "None Of Your Business" and of course "Push It." Spinderella did a bit of a DJ set during the middle of the set, and they got some fans up on stage to dance with them, including a little kid who broke out some break dancing moves.

The closing act of the night was Vanilla Ice, who wanted to turn his set into a block party so he invited people up on stage just a couple of songs in. His set was all over the place as he played "Ninja Rap," his song from the 1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie,  "Play That Funky Music" and of course "Ice Ice Baby," which resulted in nearly half of the crowd heading for the exits once it was done. He did a freestyle rap with Coolio and Tone Loc, and finished the evening by doing a cover of Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" to a near empty arena.

Overall while the concert was entertaining it was a bit sad to see a packaged tour which was clearly just a money grab. Everyone quickly played their hits and then got off the stage for the next act. I imagine it would be a bit demoralising, but then I guess if you need the money you have to cash in somehow.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Van Gogh And The Seasons

The latest exhibition for the NGV's Melbourne Winter Masterpieces is Van Gogh and the Seasons. It contains around 50 drawings and paintings from Van Gogh that are themed around the four seasons.

As you enter the exhibition there is a large screen video presentation about Van Gogh before you get to see some examples of the different types of art that influenced him in the first rooms, such as Japanese woodblock prints.

The main sections of the exhibition focus on a specific season, with paintings and drawings of landscapes, still life, and people working out in the fields. Here were some of my favorite pieces:


Autumn


Winter


Spring


Summer


It's not the largest exhibition, but it took a while to get through due to the sheer number of people trying to see it. I wish the NGV would sell timed tickets to cut down on the lines and crowds going through the exhibition at any one time as it was an exercise in patience to deal with the number of people in there.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Vivid Sydney 2017

I have spent the past two evenings wandering around the Sydney CBD to check out as many of the light projections and installations as possible on display from 6:00 - 11:00 pm as part of Vivid Sydney. My first stop was Martin Place, which had the Urban Tree 2.0 projections on the CTA Building, and the pieces Waratah and re/FRACTION at the opposite end of the pedestrian mall.

Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney

Down towards Circular Quay were a few interesting pieces, including the different angles of the piece Helix, the umbrellas of Supernova and Under My Umbrella, and the hanging lights of Parallax.

Vivid Sydney

The Rocks and along the waterfront were where I was able to catch the bulk of the light projections and installations. The highlight was the Organic Vibrations projections on the facade of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, which were spectacular.

Vivid Sydney

Other interesting installations in The Rocks and Campbell's Cove precincts were the light columns of Connections, the different environments viewed through Portholes, the light sculpture of Fractal, and Landscape of the Mind, which explored people's experiences with anxiety on a series of body maps.

Vivid Sydney

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and buildings along the waterfront had different colored lights. The southern pylon of the Bridge also had projections of the Bangarra Dance Theatre as part of the piece EORA - Bennelong.

Vivid Sydney

Of course the main draw of Vivid Sydney is the projections on the Sydney Opera House. Lighting of the Sails: Audio Creatures had a focus on sea creatures and animals this year.

Vivid Sydney

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney was my final stop and contained many of the sculptural elements at Vivid Sydney this year. There was a set path through parts of the Garden, with some of my favorite pieces being the moving The Sunflowers, the kiwi Birds of Lumos, the dandelions of SPREADING LIFE, and the Reflection light boxes.

Vivid Sydney

The trees in the Garden were also lit and contained some interesting objects as part of the Electric Forest, and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music had some colorful light projections as you exited the Garden.

Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney

Overall there were some really great pieces at Vivid Sydney, but I don't think it compares as a whole to the all encompassing amazing experience that is White Night Melbourne.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fleet Foxes - Vivid LIVE Sydney

Tonight Tash and I headed to the Sydney Opera House for the second of four shows by Fleet Foxes as part of Vivid LIVE. As these were their only shows in Australia for 2017, I was really excited to be able to get tickets to attend.

It's been five years since we last saw them play live. The set list featured many songs from their upcoming album Crack-Up, which is due to be released in mid-June. I always enjoy the opportunity to get to preview songs live before an album is released, and these tracks show the progression of the band from their previous two albums.

Watching Fleet Foxes recreate these intricate songs live is an amazing experience as band members switch instruments not only between songs but during them. They were also supported at points throughout the set by a string quartet and some horn players. It was great to hear some old favorites played, including "Grown Ocean," "White Winter Hymnal," "Ragged Wood," "Your Protector," "He Doesn't Know Why," "Mykonos" and "The Shrine / An Argument."

For the encore Robin Pecknold did a stunning version of "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" solo on acoustic guitar. We also got to hear "Blue Ridge Mountains" and were treated to a cover of the Bee Gees' "In The Morning." During the concert someone shouted out what sounded like "I have the same tattoo" but it turned out to be a request for "Helplessness Blues," which ended up being the last song they played this evening. It was such a fantastic show and the band earned the standing ovation they received at the end.

Here's the lyric video for the first single off Crack-Up, "Third of May / Odaigahara"

Friday, May 26, 2017

Vivid Sydney 2017 - Taronga Zoo

Tonight was the kick off of Vivid Sydney for 2017, the 23 day festival of light, music and ideas. This is my first time attending Vivid, and tonight I took the ferry out to Taronga Zoo for Lights for the Wild. When you arrive there are some fantastic light projections on the heritage building at the entrance to the zoo.

Vivid Sydney

Inside the light walk takes about an hour and half as you wander around the zoo on a marked path past these amazing giant animal light sculptures. They are split between ten legacy species lanterns in honor of Taronga Zoo's centenary conservation commitment, as well as feature lanterns of a variety of different animals and creatures.

Vivid Sydney Taronga Zoo

Vivid Sydney Taronga Zoo

Vivid Sydney Taronga Zoo

Vivid Sydney Taronga Zoo

Vivid Sydney Taronga Zoo

I cannot recommend checking out Lights of the Wild enough - this alone made the trip up to Sydney this weekend worth it.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Eurovision 2017

I was up very early this morning to catch the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Kiev (or Kyiv), Ukraine this year. Going with the theme "celebrate diversity" it was interesting that they decided to have three white males as the hosts. However, they did grow on me over the three days of the competition, and did a hilarious sketch with Mans Zelmerlow about learning how to be the perfect Eurovision host:


This year's contest didn't really have any songs that totally bowled me over like in previous years. I did really like the winning song from Portugal, Salvador Sobral's "Amar Pelos Dois" (written by his sister Luisa). It was a delicate, quiet performance that packed an emotional punch with a song that reminded me a bit of Antonio Carlos Jobim.


My favorite song for this year was Blanche (Belgium) with "City Lights." She may not be that animated a performer, but the song stands on its own.


I also liked Lucie Jones (United Kingdom) with the ballad "Never Give Up On You," which had the best staging of any song in the competition.


Australia was back once again this year with two contestants - Isaiah Firebrace as Australia's official entry with "Don't Come Easy," and Anja Nissen who sang for Denmark with "Where I Am."


Friday, April 14, 2017

MICF- Nazeem Hussain and Helen Thorn

MICF 2017
I began the evening for my final two shows of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at ACMI to catch Nazeem Hussain's show Public Frenemy. Nazeem recently appeared on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! so the first part of his show was about his experiences in the African jungle. As expected Nazeem discussed the current state of politics in both Australia and the US (using some of the material from Political Asylum last week). The most hilarious bit though was about when he worked at the Telstra Call Centre and the emails he sent to then CEO Sol Trujillo to try and get fired.

MICF 2017
Next I headed up to The Tuxedo Cat on LaTrobe Street for my friend Helen Thorn's show Thorny Questions. Helen came out onto the stage in a black catsuit (not the gold lame one she normally wears as one half of the UK comedy duo the Scummy Mummies). In this solo show Helen discussed topics such as body image, the labels we put on ourselves, being in a long-term relationship, and her experiences with bullies during her teen years growing up in country Victoria. There were even a few "guest" appearances by some different characters, including Helen's mother-in-law. I found the show to be very funny, with some laugh out loud moments which may have been aided by knowing a few of the people being discussed in the show in real life.

Knafeh Bakery Melbourne

This afternoon I met up with Ebony at Zaatar on Sydney Road, Coburg to check out the bearded bakers of Knafeh Melbourne. They were there as part of Zaatar's Good Friday Appeal carnival to raise money for the Royal Children's Hospital. Housed in a refurbished shipping container with some beautiful street art portraits, the bearded bakers have an assembly line going to make the sweet cheese dessert knafeh (like a Middle Eastern creme brulee).


The bearded bakers are also known for their singing and dancing while they are baking, which makes for a very entertaining wait while your knafeh is being made. Not only do they occasionally dance on the tables along the front of the container, but a few of the guys also popped out to dance to the singer and band performing at the carnival. It was a very enjoyable and fun afternoon with some tasty food.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MICF- Joel Creasey and Rhys Nicholson

MICF 2017
Tonight's Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows featured two of Australia's top young comedians (who also happen to be good friends). First up was Joel Creasey's Poser at Max Watt's. Joel's shows are always entertaining and this year didn't disappoint. Joel has reached the stage in his climb to fame of getting untrue stories about himself published in the tabloids. He shared gossip on various Australian "celebrities," told the hilarious story of his Thanksgiving dinner in Docklands with a group of gay American Trump supporters, and had funny and touching things to say about his encounters with Joan Rivers and Carrie Fisher before their passings.

MICF 2017
Next I headed down to ACMI for Rhys Nicholson's show I'm Fine. Rhys was exquisitely dressed in a tailored suit with his perfectly coiffed red hair. His show covered a wide range of topics in a rapid fire style, including his social anxieties, awkward teen years (with a very cringeworthy story about hooking up on a tennis court), white privilege, and a visit to a sex shop with his long-term partner to enliven his"vanilla" tastes. The show finished with Rhys bringing out a very interesting prop.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

MICF- Richard Gadd and Political Asylum

MICF 2017
Last night I attended another two shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. First I went to ACMI to see Scottish comedian Richard Gadd's show Monkey See Monkey Do, which won best comedy show at the 2016 Edinburgh Comedy Awards. In the show Gadd is literally running away from his anxieties as the majority of the show is performed on a treadmill. This unique and courageous show covers mental health, masculinity and how talking to people can help you get that monkey off your back.

MICF 2017
Next I headed to the Melbourne Town Hall for the annual Political Asylum Late Night Riot! show. In its eighth year, this mega show featured a number of comedians doing short stand-up sets with a political tinge. Highlights for me were MC Mathew Kenneally and his observations on Australian politics throughout the night, Nazeem Hussain's description of his encounter with a Trump supporters rally on Hollywood Boulevard before the election, Rod Quantock's hilarious history of Australian politics drawn on a flip chart easel pad, and special guest Andy Zaltzman's take on Brexit and Trump. As Political Asylum do monthly shows at The Brunswick Green I will have to check it out again in the future.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Scummy Mummies Book Launch

Tonight I had the pleasure of heading to Readings in Carlton for the book launch of Scummy Mummies by Ellie Gibson and my friend Helen Thorn. Ellie and Helen are the comedy duo behind Scummy Mummies, the number one parenting podcast in the UK. Helen is out here with Will and the kids for a family holiday and to perform a solo show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, so it was good to get a chance to catch up with them and help celebrate the release of the new book.

Comedian Claire Hooper acted as MC for the evening and kicked things off with a few stories of her own parenting travails, such as crying as she spied on her child through a fence at day care after dropping her off for the first time. Next up was Michael Williams, Director at the Wheeler Centre and former panelist with Helen on the short-lived 2005 ABC arts show Vulture. He joked that Vulture united the disparate arts community in its hatred for the show. Then Helen took to the podium in her gold lame Scummy Mummies jacket (unfortunately no gold catsuit this time) and spoke about meeting Ellie for the first time four years ago and their journey from the podcast to live comedy shows and now a book. If you are a parent who likes to drink wine and feed your child fish sticks instead of organic food then this is the book for you!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

MICF- Tommy Little & Gossling, Rose Callaghan and DeAnne Smith

MICF 2017
For tonight's Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows I started at The Famous Spiegeltent at the Arts Centre to see Tommy Little & Gossling perform Heartbreak & Hilarity. Combining the music of Gossling and Tommy's stand-up, it was a great mix of storytelling and songs about love and heartbreak as Tommy talked about trying to get his unicorn. Touching at times with a hilarious musical ending, this was a fantastic and unique show you should definitely check out if you get the chance during its limited run.

MICF 2017
Next I went to The Forum for Rose Callaghan's Will You Accept This Rose? As you can guess from the title it was themed around The Bachelor, which is one of my guilty pleasure tv shows (both the US and Australian versions). Rose even got Osher Gunsberg to record the intro and voice overs throughout the show. Along with stories about run-ins with former contestants, Rose also spoke about the adventures of her dating life, with one particularly spectacular story to finish the show.

MICF 2017
My final show for the evening was North American comedian DeAnne Smith's Post-Joke Era at Taxi Riverside. DeAnne's show was very entertaining and touched on topics such as depression, gender and identity, equality and how straight men should be treating their women. There were so many mike drops it was hard to keep track, and she finished with a great story about what can happen when you respond to someone's texts to the wrong number.

Friday, March 31, 2017

MICF- Hannah Gadsby, Josie Long and New Order UK

MICF 2017
It's the funniest time of the year with the start of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this week. We began the evening at the Melbourne Town Hall for Hannah Gadsby's Nanette, her latest and reportedly last show at MICF. I've been to many of Hannah's shows over the years, and this was one of the most powerful and brilliant pieces I've seen from her. It's a very brave show that touches on the impacts of homophobia on identity and self-worth, mental health, violence, and fighting through it all to achieve self-acceptance. This is not a show full of laughs but an important personal statement about resilience.

MICF 2017
Next up was British comedian Josie Long in her show Something Better. Josie is ever the optimist, even while being a lefty progressive during a period of conservative UK governments and Brexit. As someone hitting her mid-thirties she takes joy in the little things like drinking pinot grigio and the youthful effects of wearing a chunky necklace. However, this show mainly focuses on finding inspiration from the underdog and keeping your chin up in the face of nationalistic right-wing movements around the world.

MICF 2017
The final show I attended this evening was at the Victoria Hotel and featured four young up and coming UK comedians in the annual New Order show. First up was Brennan Reece, who spent most of his set chatting with a few members of the crowd getting to know a bit about their lives. Next was Ahir Shah, who had a fast-paced set around social and political issues such as colonisation and Brexit. The third act Emma Sidi was the highlight of the four as she performed completely in character as a scorned woman confronting her cheating boyfriend and sister, with the whole set spoken entirely in broken Spanish. The last act of the night was Steve Bugeja, who played up his geeky and awkward nature in anecdotes about his life.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

French Film Festival 2017

I have once again been busy attending the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival over the past couple weeks. My tight list of five films expanded a bit as work colleagues encouraged me to join them for other films. Here is what I ended up seeing this year:

Slack Bay is a slapstick comedy set in the early 1900s in the seaside town of Slack Bay. Summer visitors to the town keep disappearing, and the bumbling local detectives can't figure out what is going on (or what role the locals may be playing). While Juliette Binoche was great in her over the top performance as the haughty Aude Van Peteghem, I didn't find the movie to be that funny as it seemed to rely on tired cliches and physical pratfalls for cheap laughs.

It's Only The End Of The World is the latest film by French Canadian director Xavier Dolan, and was winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Based on a play of the same name by Jean-Luc Lagarce, the plot revolves around playwright Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) returning to visit his family after a 12 year absence to tell them that he is dying. There are tense interactions with his mother (Nathalie Baye), brother (Vincent Cassel), sister (Lea Seydoux) and sister-in-law (Marion Cotillard), and everything climaxes towards the end of the family lunch. The film maintains its tension between the characters throughout and is visually stunning to look at.

Tomorrow is a documentary by Melanie Laurent and Cyril Dion about how communities around the world are working together to utilise local solutions to combat global problems. The film is split into chapters that cover agriculture, energy, the economy, democracy and education. I really enjoyed this film and was inspired by the different ways people are tackling these complex issues. Check it out if you get the opportunity.

Daguerrotype is a dark, atmospheric film by Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It centers around a young guy named Jean who picks up work as a photographer's assistant. Stephane shoots life-sized Daguerrotypes, using his daughter Marie as his main model and muse. Most of the action centers around their old mansion, and Kurosawa uses music and lingering shots to build suspense and mystery so you don't know if you are seeing reality or what is in the characters' imaginations.

Monsieur Chocolat tells the true story of Rafael Padilla/Chocolat (Omar Sy), a former slave who partners with white clown George Footit (James Thierree) to develop a duo act that becomes the toast of the Nouveau Cirque in Paris during the belle-epoque. The film tackles the racism of the time and Chocolat's gradual realisation that despite the fame, being part of a minstrel routine isn't worth it if he wants to achieve equality.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Things Of Stone And Wood- The Yearning Tour

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of their debut album The Yearning, Things Of Stone And Wood have reunited for a tour around Australia, playing the album in full for the first time. Fran, Kelli and I arrived at the Northcote Social Club tonight for the last few songs of opening act Club Hoy, another early 1990s folk-rock band (although I wasn't aware of them as they were before my time in Australia).

This was the first of two shows in Melbourne, and it was great to see Greg Arnold, Tony Floyd and Michael Allen back together playing live again. For this tour they were joined by multi-instrumentalist James Black from Mondo Rock and Rockwiz fame to round out the sound. You forget how many great songs are on The Yearning, and the crowd was singing and jumping along to "Share This Wine," "Happy Birthday Helen" (which Greg had us sing for the real Helen in Switzerland as it was her birthday today), "Rock This Boat," "Single Perfect Raindrop," "Rain Fell Down" and "Barkly Street." I also loved hearing the slower tracks "In Our Home" and one of my all time favorites "Beg." At the start of the set Tony was doing little factual intros for each song, and I must say that Greg was in very fine voice throughout the show.

For the encore they branched out to their other releases and sang "Churchill's Black Dog" and "Wildflowers" off of Junk Theatre, "Blink" off the underrated Whirligig, and closed the night with "She Will Survive" with Greg on acoustic guitar and Tony and Michael singing harmonies together on the other mike. It's such a special opportunity to get to see them live these days (especially with Greg living overseas), so I was very appreciative of this tour happening.

Here's the video for "Happy Birthday Helen," which was the song that really launched their career:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An Evening With Nick Seymour

Tonight Fran, Mary and I met up at Allans Billy Hyde on Bourke Street for an unique opportunity to listen to Nick Seymour of Crowded House talk about his career in music and as an artist. They had rows of chairs set up in the store for the 100 or so people lucky enough to grab a free ticket to this special event.

Nick was his usual lovely and entertaining self as he started the evening by talking about his upbringing, going to art school, and the local Melbourne music scene in the late 1970s and 1980s. One of his early band experiences was with his brother Mark and other housemates in a band called Bam, but it came to a end when Mark took the songs they had worked on to his other band The Jetsonnes (an early version of Hunters & Collectors), which had a bass player so Nick wasn't needed.

Nick was already friends with Paul Hester, so when he and Neil Finn announced they were starting a new band out of the ashes of Split Enz, Nick was determined to get a shot. He crashed the Enz farewell party, cornered a drunk Neil and got him to agree to let Nick audition for the band. The rest is history.

As part of Nick's talk he took us through the bass parts of different Crowded House songs utilising the rehearsal tracks that Neil and his son Elroy put together to help Nick rehearse for Neil's solo festival shows that they played over the past week. We were treated to portions of "Don't Dream It's Over," "It's Only Natural," "Fall At Your Feet," "Sister Madly," and "Pineapple Head" as someone asked a question about it. He also played a bit of "Amsterdam" as an example of a song he was initially unsure about but felt came together in the end, and "Better Be Home Soon" as an example of rises and falls he added to baseline instead of just playing it straight. Nick said that his favorite songs were those where he gets to sing and play bass at the same time.

Nick answered many questions from the audience. He briefly touched on some of his artwork, including the Crowded House album covers and original stage costumes with the painted jackets. He said those came about due to his horror at Neil and Paul turning up to rehearsals in slippers and Neil wearing a cardigan. He discussed the band's input into their earlier videos, where "Don't Dream It's Over" featured rooms representing a space from each of their childhoods, and Nick designed the set for "World Where You Live" as a moving room (which gave Paul motion sickness). A young member of the audience asked about the impact of Paul's death, and Nick spoke quite honestly about his sense of grief and abandonment

He spoke about live shows, including playing the Sydney Opera House both 20 years ago and last November, one of his favorite gigs (Byron Bay Bluesfest) and worst gig (Coachella playing before Rage Against The Machine to a hostile crowd that threw a water bottle that hit Neil's mike stand). Nick also told a very funny tidbit that when Neil feels they've had a really great show he will stand around completely naked while changing in the backstage room and chat away about the gig.

Someone asked about the chances of Crowded House recording again, and Nick felt that it will happen eventually - both by revisiting sessions they did with Nick Launay a few years ago and doing new material. After the talk Nick was kind enough to stick around and sign autographs for people. I got him to sign my Chris Bourke Crowded House: Something So Strong book. He even wrote a line to rhyme with one Paul had previously written. Now all I need is Neil's signature. Nick was so gracious with everyone and I'm so happy I got the opportunity to listen to him speak for a couple of hours.
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