Loopy blues and a cappella muse
The return of the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Australia’s biggest, and the world’s second largest arts festival- four weeks of fun.
First up for review are two very dissimilar shows: one which uses technology to revamp an old musical form, whilst the other recreates complex orchestration and rhythms with nothing but the human voice.
Old Blues, New Grooves
In Old Blues, New Grooves Melbourne four-piece Dreamboogie presented a modern reinterpretation of blues and traditional jazz. The setting in Gluttony’s Spiegletent was impressive and the use of percussive and synthesised loops was interesting. Rebecca Davey gave an accomplished vocal performance punctuated by some searing Albert/Freddie King-style guitar solos from Sam Buckley. Some variation on the guitar tone would have added more depth to the music. A song dedicated to the three departed Kings of blues (Freddie, Albert, BB) was a highlight. A downside of using pre-programmed loops was that the songs attained a mono-chordal timbre, which the vocals managed to disguise, but blues is usually at least three chords (and jazz many, many more) – and how we longed for some basic modulation from the tonic (give us an A). The mid afternoon slot did not help. Dreamboogie is a unique show with some special moments but more suited to a packed late night dive bar.
The Magnets, Naked 80s
Vocal supergroup The Magnets brought their show Naked 80s in a return to Adelaide – they first played at the 2011 Cabaret Festival, then the 2017 Fringe. The current line, five Brits and one American produce remarkably full a cappella interpretations of fully orchestrated music. The show featured only 80s music, which they claimed a survey had shown to be the best decade for music. Funny, I thought it was the worst- all corporate rock and tinny monophonic synthesiser bands! But the Magnets did an amazing job recreating the decade’s sounds with just their vocal chords. From Whitney Houston to Run-DMC they left almost no part of the 80s soundscape untouched, a super slick medley reprising songs that didn’t make the set list in full, but surprisingly no Wham or George Michael. A responsive beatboxing jam with audience participation, prior to We will rock you, was a highlight. The foot-stomping finale of the Proclaimers’ I’m gonna be (500 miles) and Aussie legend John Farnham’s You’re the voice brought the crowd to their feet and finding their own voice. One minor negative: with the 80s being the decade of big hair and outrageous clothes and general excess, I was expecting more visually. Perhaps that’s what the “naked” referred to- the boys didn’t want to dress up in silly outfits, but with some visual extravagance and sparkle we could have believed we were back in the eighties.