Monday, January 27, 2014

Oscar Watch, Part One: movie reviews

It's my favourite time of the year, the lead up to The Academy Awards, which means loads of brilliant movies to research.
I've managed a few good ones lately, which will make choices very hard when it comes time to 'vote'.
American Hustle
David O. Russell has assembled a core group of regular actors and they feature in this fabulous caper, and American Hustle is a caper in the true sense of the word. Christian Bale is unrecognisable as Irving Rosenfeld, an oddball hustler with a heart of gold. Irving meets his match in Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), another hustler who is eager to meet and match his own schemes. Thing is, Irving is married to Rosalyn, Jennifer Lawrence, and thus an awkward love triangle is formed. Step in eager FBI agent, Richie DiMaso played by Bradley Cooper, and after a busting Irving and Sydney he gives them a 'break' if they help him bust open a bigger case, including politicians and the mob.
This is a really amusing, yet at times dramatic, romp set in New York in the 70s. With twists and turns, and double crossing and affairs it keeps you on your toes guessing what will happen next. The supporting cast is fabulous with Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Pena, Elisabeth Rohm, and an uncredited Robert De Niro. But the four main stars really make the film. In particular Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams, both bona fida stars, are outstanding on screen, especially in their few scenes together. I have been a huge fan of Amy Adams, since her breakout role in the indie film, Junebug. This, I think, is her finest role since, and she lights up the screen, even when she is not glamorous. Bradley Cooper, the lesser actor of the four, does struggle a little I think. His character is a bit of a dope, and is easily the funniest. His hair/perm reeks of Lindsay Buckingham circa 1977...which was hotter on Lindsay than Bradley.
The costumes and wigs are outstanding and possible stars of the film too, and the soundtrack a killer. This is just a great script, brilliant ensemble cast, and an all round perfect movie. I reckon it might take out Best Picture...but it's early days yet! 
August: Osage County
It's been days since I saw this powerful drama and I am still haunted. Based on Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize winning play, August, it's about an estranged family, The Westons, coming together after the disappearance of their father (Sam Shepherd) and to keep an eye on their mother, a former drug addict with mouth cancer (Meryl Streep). It's a sweeping drama set in the Oklahoma and the endless highways and stretches of corn fields look stunning, and yet add to the bleakness and isolation of the story.
The cast is nothing short of brilliant. Meryl Streep looks shocking as the ratbag matriarch, Violet Weston, dying and passing every inch of her pain onto those around her. Sam Shepherd, Beverly Weston her husband, is briefly in the film and his presence is felt the entire way through the film. It is his disappearance that brings this family back under the same roof.
The underrated Margo Martindale plays Meryl's sister, Mattie, and Chris Cooper her husband, the gentle and kind Charlie. Mattie rules over her husband and child, little Charlie (a very understated Benedict Cumberbatch) forcefully and at times with great menace. The Weston girls are Barbara (Julia Roberts), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), and Karen (Juliette Lewis). Ivy lives nearby, assists her parents, is single, very much put upon and has a huge secret. Karen, the youngest arrives with her sleazy fiancĂ© (Dermot Mulroney) in tow. Barbara, the eldest, arrives with her estranged husband, Bill, and 14 year old daughter, Jean. (Ewan McGregor and Abigail Breslin).
There is tension is every single relationship, these people have never treated each other with respect and as the days go by the tensions get worse. Violet's addiction has resurfaced and assists her behaviour from awful to disgusting and family secrets begin to come out. Barbara is given the greatest responsibilities and burdens to bare. You feel every ounce of pain she is suffering and more. Julia Roberts shines as this dull, dreary, pained woman who has reached the end of her tether with every single person around her. Meryl Streep is a stunning actress, but by god Julia pretty much acts her off the screen and as someone who has never really rated Roberts, I cannot even believe I am writing this. In terms of looks this movie does none of the actresses any favours, they look real, their age, hardened and worn down. And it's stunning to see.
There is so much more to write about this movie, but is difficult to do so without giving away the twists and turns. I thought the male actors could have been given more screen time and depth, apparently they do in the play, the film has had a good third cut out of it. This seems a shame as I could have easily spent more time watching it. It is unpleasant and harrowing yet one of the best dramas I have seen in a very long time. This is due to the magnificent acting of the ensemble cast. If you love great acting and seeing brilliance in motion, this is for you.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Before I begin I must say the behaviour of the real life people these characters were based on are scum of the earth and I am conflicted about this review. Mostly as I really enjoyed the movie and feel rather bad about it. The behaviour within was despicable in every sense but it was funny, ironic, and hilarious to watch. I laughed a lot, mind you there were moments where I did not laugh (though most others in the audience did...I judged them silently!) But it is a black comedy, so expect to be disgusted and expect to laugh, and expect that to sometimes happen at the same time!
After all it is Martin Scorsese, think of all his past films, and this is much the same, it especially reminded me of Casino. And like those gangster films before this, he manages to walk the fine line between opening up the seedy underbelly and exposing these people for what they are, all the while entertaining us...remarkable directing, this is why he is the master.
So the movie follows and rise and fall of real life Wall Street broker, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). Jordan begins at Wall Street in 1987 and the company he works for dissolves after Black Friday. He gets a job in a small brokerage and makes a small fortune which he uses to open his own firm with his neighbour, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). There is sex, drugs, drinking, misogyny, and debauchery and a lot of language. The film supposedly uses fuck more times than any other drama in cinematic history, can't say I noticed! It's Scorsese, what did you expect!?!
The story is surreal and unbelievable at times, the highs, lows, double crossing, and back stabbing keep things flowing quickly, it was the quickest 3 hours I have ever spent at the movies. The cast is outstanding, a great supporting cast of Rob Reiner, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Fran Lebowitz, Spike Jonze, Ethan Suplee, and Joanna Lumley. McConaughey and Lumley had very small but pivotal roles and were both incredibly funny. It was also fantastic seeing the great Rob Reiner on screen as Jordan's Dad. I also thought, and have done for a while, that Jonah Hill was impressive, holding his own with DiCaprio, and having some incredibly funny and dramatic scenes.
But it is DiCaprio's film, he was outstanding. I admit (baring that awful boat film) I have been a fan of his since seeing him in What's Eating Gilbert Grape some 20 (!?!) years ago, he has barely tread wrong since. This is surely his chance at Oscar, there is some competition but the range he shows - humour, drama, physicality, and surrealism (there is one scene straight out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas I swear!!) - is outstanding. I love the pairing of Scorsese and DiCaprio, they are making some very fine films indeed. This film is not for everyone I guess, but I came out pleasantly surprised!
Philomena is the heartbreakingly beautiful story of Philomena, an elderly Irish woman (Judi Dench) and her search for her long lost son. Philomena fell pregnant whilst young and was sent to the local convent to give birth and work for payment of the nun's assisting with the birth and to bring the child up with many other young mothers in similar situations. The thing is the children were given up for adoption and so as a cute young toddler, Philomena's son was taken away. She kept this dreadful act a secret until her son's 50th birthday and decided she must try and find him.
Enter Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), recently dismissed from politics and returns to journalism and looking for a good story, bumps into Philomena's daughter who tells him her story. He initially brushes it off as a 'human interest' story but then comes around and agrees to help Philomena find her son. The search begins at the convent and they keep finding road blocks, but a chance meeting at the nearby pub gives them the lead they needed. The Convent had sold many of the babies to rich Americans, and so Martin and Philomena journey to America to see what they can find.
I will not tell you any more of the story except it is heart wrenching, sad, happy, funny and beautiful. To be honest the story has so many twists and turns it almost seems unbelievable, but in fact it is true, shockingly so. Stephen Frears gently and lovingly directs this story and brings out the most delightful performance in Steve Coogan. I've been admiring Coogan since I saw him as Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People. Over the years he has perfected the role of Steve Coogan being someone else but still a little bit Steve Coogan...and I adore him for that. But this role is his first real dramatic one (he also helped adapt the book to the screen) and he shines.
Judi Dench is delightful and formidable as Philomena, her face just about killed me in most scenes, she didn't have to say a word, you could tell exactly what she was feeling. On any other year the Best Actress Oscar would be hers, but this is a remarkable year for women in film and being nominated should be prize enough.
The story of Philomena may make some people uncomfortable, but it shouldn't, it is a story that simply must be told, a devastating part of recent Irish (and I am guessing other nationalities) history. Yes, you will need a few tissues to get you through this film, but it is ultimately uplifting and, like myself, you will be pleased you saw it.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Year in Music: 1997

As I follow V's Project of Songs of the Year I am finding less and less. This is pretty much into my lost years at this point.
Having said that a lot of quality songs were released in 1997, so much so that I struggled to work out which should go in my Top 5!
The Australian hits were Silverchair's Freak, Kylie Did it Again, Savage Garden's Truly Madly Deeply, and Natalie Imbruglia's Torn. (And Pauline Pantsdown with Back Door Man!)
The big hits were Chumbawamba's Tubthumping (which got pretty annoying rather quickly), Smashmouth's Walkin' on the Sun, and Song 2 from Blur (which will never get annoying).
Red Hot Chili Peppers had Love Rollercoaster, and Foo Fighters had Monkey Wrench. We were dancing to Cosmic Girl from Jamiroquai and Lovefool from The Cardigans.
Melancholy was well represented this year, I adored all the following.
We waited three years for Portishead to follow up Dummy, and it was worth it with, All mine, Only You, and Over. Beth Gibbons never sounded better!
Bjork released the hypnotic Joga from Homogenic, and another amazing video from Michel Gondry featuring Iceland.
Jewel grew from strength to strength with You Were Meant For Me and Foolish Games.
And Bruce Springsteen's Secret Garden, from Jerry Maguire the movie and Blood Brothers the album, was haunting.
My Top Five are as follows:
You Sound Like Louis Burdett by The Whitlams
This is a great jangly, jazzy tune that I can't hear without dancing. (couldn't find a good video of this)
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces by Ben Folds Five
Another dancy piano tune, I do like Ben Folds.
Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve
Controversial for sure, but it's name says it all, I will never tire of hearing this magnificent piece.

Into My Arms by Nick Cave
One of my all time Nick Cave songs, haunting and beautiful, one even Nick says he is proud of writing. And why wouldn't you, it is stunning. His deep, strong voice against the piano - what else do you need. Favourite lyric: "And I don't believe in the existence of angels, but looking at you I wonder if that's true." Wow, imagine someone writing that about you...
Even When I'm Sleeping by Leonardo's Bride
This is one of my all time favourite love songs, the fragility and range of Abby Dobson's voice kills me every single time.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Yoko Ono exhibit at the MCA: War is Over!

Yoko Ono, what is there to say that hasn't been said before?

Much maligned and a divider of opinions, people either love her or hate her.

I fell into the later group for many years, but I saw an interview with her around 10 years ago. Her love for Lennon and the deep sadness over his loss was palpable and as if it had happened yesterday. I decided it was wrong to hate her, and when Paul McCartney 'forgave' her a few years later I knew I had made the right choice.

I will say upfront, I don't care for her music, but I love her art and her philosophy.

She is a little bit kooky, but the best people always are!

And it was her art and philosophy that was on display at the MCA.

I had not been to the MCA since the renovations, so A and I walked into the new entrance and went up large stairs that said 'WAR IS OVER! If you want it YOKO ONO'.

It was exciting, then we made out way to the 4th floor and the exhibit.

Inside were two screens, one playing her Cut Piece film from 1964 and the other, an updated version from 2003. In the earlier, she is young and seemingly vulnerable, the later one, older, wiser and quite formidable. Even though I had seen it before, it was fascinating to watch.

Beyond that was an area with many chess sets in white for anyone to interact with. This installation dates back to 1966 and the theory is once you being playing it is difficult to work out which piece belongs to which player and competition stalls.

Through that room was another of found family objects including what I guess are a pair of Lennon's glasses. I am unsure whether they were THE glasses, but given all the pieces were covered in a bloody red/brown pigment it was rather powerful. It sent shivers down my spine and brought a tear to my eye.

The other side was a room with posters, books, ipads with music, screens with moving images. Whilst in there listening to Double Fantasy on the ipad, they showed a clip of Yoko accepting a Grammy in 1981 for the same album when it won album of the year. I think I had seen the clip before, but such power and emotion, it was a lot to take in.

Many more pieces of found art and photos were displayed along a corridor before more interactive pieces.

Luggage and wire trunks were either side of a lovely writing table with pencils and pieces of paper. You could write where you wished to go and add it to the trunk.

Then a long and very full wall dedicated to mothers, again you were encouraged to write a note to your mother and add it to the wall.

At the end of the corridor was an installation of upturned war helmets, with pieces of peace jigsaws in them. The pieces of peace were blue skies with drifting clouds, an ongoing motif in her work, you were encouraged to take a piece with you to help build a new sky for the future!
Beyond that some amazing bronze pieces, including Endangered Species 2319-2322, I was really attracted to the beauty and melancholy of this.

Then double back to the peace wall, a wall of maps of the world and various places within it. A table was nearby with stamps in a jar. the stamps had IMAGINE PEACE on them in many different languages and you could put your stamp of peace on the world.

She also had a collection of pencil etchings, they were very eye catching.

The most remarkable piece is hard to describe, and will sound odd no matter how I do describe it. It was a room with a painted wall of Japanese calligraphy, and doors seemingly suspended filled the room at surreal angles. Each door had small handwritten messages of peace and love if you looked closely enough. 

The wall opposite the calligraphy had a long ledge with bottles of water filled all at the same level. On each bottle was a hand written label. On the label the name of someone famous (or infamous) who had died. The theory is we are all reduced to water and thus all the same. I was really drawn to this room and didn't want to leave, it is difficult to describe.

The love and peace and world views of Yoko are inherent in every piece, there was of course much more than I have described. The range in style and time periods she has been creating in was remarkable.

I felt very lucky to have seen the exhibit, it is difficult to explain how powerful it is, but it's a must see if you are in Sydney.

And don't forget to go up to the MCA roof and see the wishing trees Yoko donated, add your wish, and have a look at the amazing views of the harbour.

David Sedaris

David Sedaris is one of my favourite authors. He writes memoirs in short story or essay form. They are mostly about his family, especially growing up in his large family. He has a way with words and can be quite sharp and witty, but underlined with a sense of melancholy and isolation, most especially when he is reminiscing about his childhood. He is the kind of author that can make you laugh out loud and sigh with understanding in almost the same breath.

I've devoured everything by him and relished listening to him read his own words on talking books. His voice is exactly as I imagined it and of course The Internet gives me access to live recordings of his work. But I had never seen him live. 

So when he was to appear at the Sydney Opera House I jumped at the chance, taking A and L with me.

He tours regularly, he likes to read his work out loud, and especially loves the meet and greet at book signings. He uses both to hone his work. The readings help him develop new pieces, he actually takes notes as he talks to remind himself of changes, where people laughed, where they didn't, and anything he added off the cuff that worked. The meet and greet gives him access to little bits that he adds to his work or expands on. He wrote about these processes specifically in his latest book, Let's explore diabetes with owls.

When we arrived at the SOH, there was a line up for pre-show book signings, so we joined the queue, but were unfortunately cut off two prior! We planned to sprint out as soon as the show ended and see if karma served us did, but more on that later!

The show started a little late and he was on stage for just over 90mins with no break. We were at the side in the second row, but the way the seats were we had no one in front of us, so technically it was like being the front row.

He seemed a little nervous and stumbled over a lot of words in the first section, but it was endearing.

He read three larger pieces; an old one, one from his latest book, and a new one. Then a range of his diary entries.

Mostly it was funny, thought provoking, and a little I would expect. There were at times, and only a few times, a few bits of misogyny and oddly tacky humour. I did not care for that, but it didn't take away from the overall enjoyment of the show.

From where we sat I could see him take notes as he spoke, moreso on the new pieces and diary entries. He loved it when people laughed, his face lit up. He seemingly loved it when the audience laughed at the more risque or tacky bits, he laughed out loud with a wry smile. I am still in two minds, was he laughing with the audience as they laughed or laughing at them FOR laughing at such subject matter? It did unnerve me a little.

But I did thoroughly enjoy the experience, as a lover of literature, words, and all things books, authors are my favourite people. To hear them talk about their processes or hear them read their work exactly as they intended is the most joyous thing.

After we did the sprint to the book signing line and scored second from the top, so karma was with us. We waited a short while and presented our books for him to sign. My friend A is Greek (as is he) so she greeted him and they chatted, it was lovely, he thought L was also Greek and asked me why I was with Greek people, lol! We chatted and talked about twitter and stuff and he was sweet and funny and kind. I was totally starstruck and didn't say much. He wrote and drew in my books and we all went away happy and content.

Meeting your 'heroes' can be difficult, but he made it an absolute pleasure.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Year in Music: 1996

My friend V, who inspires me to write these blogs when he posts his own first, wrote this is the year music died for him. In a way I am with him, this was near the beginning of my 'lost years' where I didn't listen to much music at all, let alone new stuff. A story best left behind really, so a lot of the music in my list was 'discovered' later, though some I knew from that time. Or I knew the songs, but didn't care for them and over time grew to love them. I think Oasis, Crowded House, Beck, and Jamiroquai were the main bands on my radar! I know I came to The Eels, Regurgitator, and Jewel a few years later. I also hated Savage Garden, No Doubt and Alanis. But have come to enjoy their music over time. Life is funny sometimes...
Of course it was the year Spice Girls, Silly Dion, and The Macarena were thrust upon us, so I understand why music died for my friend, they were not the reason for me, but I do concur! 
So when I searched the charts of 1996 and perused my friend's list, this is what I came up with.
On the Aussie front things were pretty good with Spiderbait - Buy me a Pony, Smashing Pumpkins - 1979, Regurgitator - I sucked a lot of cock, Crowded House - Everything is good for you, and Savage Garden - To the moon and back.
Some biggies were No Doubt - Just a girl, Alanis Morissette - Ironic, George Michael - Jesus to a child, Joan Osbourne - One of us, Pulp - Disco 2000.
Then there was the usual amount of fun songs with Fun Lovin' Criminals - Scooby Snacks, Shaggy - Boombastic, and OMC - How Bizarre.
Indies were slowing a bit but we still had Everclear - Santa Monica, Deadstar - Don't it get you done, Natalie Merchant - Wonder, Merril Bainbridge - Mouth, and Beck - Devil's haircut and Where it's at.
I also loved Hole's version of Gold Dust Woman, and Tracy Chapman's Give me one reason.
My Top Five (Six) were as follows:
Virtual Insanity - Jamiroquai
Funky and cool, loved to dance to this. I think we were all a bit in love with Jay Kay and his hats!
Novocaine for the soul - The Eels
I loved The Eels, so melancholy, with shades of dark and light. This is a great clip too.
Firestarter - Prodigy
I really cannot explain my love of this song, it just gets the blood thumping and there is something disgustingly charismatic about can't take your eyes of him!
Who will save your soul - Jewel
Bless Jewel, what a beautiful voice she has, with those poetic lyrics and lovely melodies, it was Hands I fell for in a few years time and then came back and 'discovered' all of this!
Champagne Supernova and Don't Look Back in Anger - Oasis
I think Oasis pretty much saved me this year. These two songs in particular I adored, still do. Don't Look Back in Anger may be more perfect than Wonderwall. Great song, great clip from an iconic British album.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Amanda Palmer

Last Saturday I saw Amanda the first time...and it was brilliant.
I can't remember when I first came across Amanda Palmer. I certainly knew and loved The Dresden Dolls, and was aware of her in your face attitude. As a huge fan of Neil Gaiman I guess I started to come across her more when she became his wife. Initially I was a little gobsmacked, but following both of them on social media, you can see they are the golden standard for modern romance. I know Amanda has toured before, Newcastle even (how I missed that I still have no idea!), so was keen to see her in the flesh.
And with Amanda, that can be quite literally. She is an all encompassing performer, embraces nudity, and (in my thoughts) is a real feminist. She loves men but doesn't need them, incredibly independent, tells it like it is, isn't precious about feminity, yet always looks amazing, and is kick arse! We all should be that cool!
I mean, she IS Amanda Fucking Palmer...or AFP as she is known!
So I set off on The Shitkansen with my friends, L, J and A for our AFP Adventure. (Every outing needs a hashtag) After some roving round the city we met up with our fifth accomplice, S and changed our hashtag to Five Go Wild at AFP (homage to our beloved Enid Blyton).
Amanda was doing a ten night residency at The Spiegeltent in Hyde Park, as part of The Sydney Festival, and Saturday was Performance 3. It was GA seating but we scored some great seats about 7 rows back.
The lights dimmed and we waited with anticipation and behind us a voice and ukulele started up, Radiohead's Creep. It the shadows near the bar she sang, cracking herself up from time to time and finally seductively making her way to the stage. She ended on a long operatic note, which was dazzling. I believe she is classically trained, or at least it certainly sounds as if she is. Her vocal range is stunning and her piano playing amazing.
I always enjoy her music, but I guess it is more for listening to live, and finally seeing her cemented that thought. She gives so much of herself for the entire time you feel like you might be in her bedroom looking in. Yet she makes you feel special and loved. There is much chatting and frivolity in between most songs, with stories of how they came to be or little comments about Australia. Amanda loves Australia and gets our humour and lifestyle.
Now, as wonderful as it was, I feel my descriptions do it no justice at all. It is such a visceral and powerful thing to hear such raw emotion and honesty delivered through songs (humourous or not) that I just can't find the right words...but I shall try.
The first song after Creep, was Coin Operated Boy, a Dresden Dolls song I have always loved because of it's theatrical tone and whimsical AND melancholy feel. By the end of that, if she hadn't already, the audience were in the palmer of her hand and behaving accordingly. My god, the first concert I have been to in forever that no one is annoying, in fact I cannot recall even noticing the audience. This is something!
The set was only an hour (as it is each night) and it went fast, too fast, but by god it was amazing.
Standouts for me were Vegemite (mostly because it is one of my favourites of hers, she does not like Vegemite, and neither do I...I know from experience we are in a minority, so when I first heard it, I whooped with glee!), her duet with Brendan Maclean on Bats For Lashes' Laura, Drover's Boy, and Bigger on the Inside.
Ted Egan's Drover's Boy, a song I knew but not well, was simply stunning. It was haunting and brought a tear to my eye. It's moments like that, you really think there is nothing this woman can't do!
Also the haunting Bigger on the Inside, dealing with a lot of traumatic and sad material and about being pushed to your limits had the audience hushed and you could hear a pin drop.
And then when we thought we could take no more, she ended with the delightfully upbeat Ukulele Anthem. About the joys and simplicities of playing the ukulele.
We left feeling great, Amanda came out to sign items and hug people after, we watched from afar, eating our gelatos and feeling fabulous.
P.S. My photos are not that great. I was using my phone, which is usually pretty good, in a very dark environment without a flash and then had to contend with the staging lights. But you get the gist!  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Year in Music: 1995

1995 was all about Britpop, and Oasis versus Blur.
I liked them both, but Blur never had a hope once (What's the Story) Morning Glory? was released. One of the greatest British albums ever released and a huge favourite of mine, then...and still.
The singles in 1995 were Some might say, Roll with it, Wonderwall, Morning Glory. Wonderwall is a stunning tune that was everywhere that year and covered instantly, over the years the song became a bit played out for me, but I heard it for the first time in ages recently during an episode of Girls and it got me a little undone, sometimes lyrics touch a part of you that you thought you had forgotten.
So Blur had Country House, Pulp had Common People, and Supergrass thought it was Alright. I love the filmclip, it reminds me of The Goodies!
Annie Lennox had a huge hit with the stunning No More I love You's, while Chris Isaak's Baby did a bad bad thing, and the Pretenders had I'll Stand by you. And Nine Inch Nails released Hurt, now almost redundant after being covered by the late great Johnny Cash in 2002. Reznor himself prefers Johnny's version. 

Other popular hits I didn't mind were I'll be there for you by The Rembrandts (you would think constantly hearing it on Friends each week would dampen it, but no!), TLC's Waterfalls, and the biggies were Alanis Morrissette with You Outta Know and Gangster's paradise by Coolio. I admit these two were not quite to my taste at the time but have grown on me over the years.
The indie scene was still pumping with Misery by Soul Asylum, Sick of myself by Matthew Sweet, A Girl like You by Edwyn Collins, I can dream by Skunk Anansie, Sparky's Dream by Teenage Fanclub. But my personal favourites were Carnival by Natalie Merchant, Underground by Ben Folds Five, Zombie by The Cranberries, and Buddy Holly by Weezer

Australian music was on fire. Everyone was gobsmacked at the hit duet of the year by Kylie and Nick, at the time going through an anti-Kylie period I was thrilled to see her smashed in the head by a rock and wondered what the hell was going on with Nick! Of course it gave her instant cred that even cynical ole me couldn't fight! Funk and dance were happily covered by Regurgitator and Blubber Boy, Apple Eyes by Swoop and Up to our necks in it by Skunkhour. Rebecca's Empire had Empty and Christine Anu released the seminal My Island Home. The Whitlams had their first hit with I make Hamburgers and of course You Am I released Hi Fi Way, how could I not love Cathy's Clown, but the angsty Tim singing Purple Sneakers did it for me...sigh...

And then there was TISM!!! God I loved these guys, if you don't know them, the only way to explain is to watch their seminal song and biggest hit, (He'll never be an ol') Man River. They wore the costumes to protect their identities, rumour had it they were prominent Melbourne business men! I saw them live at the Big Day Out and was amused and amazed.

My Top Five for the year are (in no order)
Apartment by Custard
Custard were huge favourites, a catchy pop/thrashy guitar band from Brisbane and in my mind totally underrated. The filmclip is so Dave, astronauts and the Opera House. I never saw them live, but saw Dave play a solo show about 8 years ago, he was spectacular!

It's oh so quiet by Bjork
This is such a catchy tune, almost a 30s show tune, but with Bjork sensibilities, great clip too! Another Spike Jonze, he was the hot music clip director at the time.

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Deep Blue Something
This is a sweet pop song and it references a favourite movie, how could this not make my top five!?!  Plus fab video shot in NYC!

Better Man by Pearl Jam
My favourite Pearl Jam song ever, love this for many, many reasons, there is nothing more to say. It means more to me now than it did then though. The fact Vedder wrote this in high school only makes its appeal stronger. What a remarkable heart.

Lightning Crashes by Live
A haunting song with stunning vocals...that is all...

Miss Sarajevo by Passengers (U2 and Pavarotti with Brian Eno)
And I don't even know where to include this...a piece of history and perfection.

I saw this performed live by U2 the last time I saw them, Bono sung the entire piece, and whilst he is no Pavarotti, it was a remarkable performance, one that sent shivers up my spine. That aria within brings me to tears...every...single...time...


Saturday, January 4, 2014


When my friend C mentioned going to see Sgt Peppers/Abbey Road Back2Back at the Sydney Opera House I had to think about it.
I am a HUGE Beatles fan.
(You can read about my love for them here: )
But I was curious, knew C had never been to the SOH and wanted to go plus knowing Russell Morris was involved eased my mind a little.

And then I was gloriously gifted the ticket!
So the premise is playing Sgt Peppers and Abbey Road back to back.
Hmmm, albums even The Beatles never played live, how would this be?
Abbey Road was my favourite Beatles album for a long, long time until The White Album took over, so not only were they playing the tunes, but favourite tunes.

And whilst some have managed to cover their tunes well over the years, I have seen many people come unstuck in their attempts. They are not easy to cover, not just because of their immense historic legacy but many of their songs are not easy to play or sing. 

So I was eager to see how this would come across!
We had a lovely drive to Sydney via Bobbin Head, ate at Circular Quay, wandered the festive January crowds on a warm, windy afternoon, and finally settled in the main concert hall in very good seats!
About 10mins prior to the commencement, two hippy looking dudes came out and sat on a rug and tuned and played their Bongos and Sitar.
Suddenly I was aware I may be in for a tremendous evening, I hadn't even thought about HOW these seminal albums would be replicated!?!
But a Sitar was serious man!!!

And soon we were on the most magical ride, a ride of sheer, utter musical joy. 
As a Beatles fans into your fifth decade you know you'll never hear the songs's that simple. Only my Dad has had that pleasure, and even then, as he says, it was just a lot of girls screaming! And I have seen McCartney who was magnificent, but this is different.
And suddenly Sgt Peppers was being played live by the most remarkable individuals, working together to create a Beatlesque sound, and it was freaking awesome!!!
The band was large and tight, multiple instruments including a string and brass section and for the songs that required it, and Indian instrument section! Among these musicians Rex Goh (the musical director and a familiar face in Australian live music) on guitar, Lindsey Field (vocal arranger and session musician for just about anyone who's anyone in Australian music) on backing vocals, and Paul Gray (Wa Wa Nee...such a fan, I recognised him immediately!) on piano and backing vocals.

And the singers were remarkable, when Doug Parkinson is the weak link in the chain, you know you are in good hands! Doug sung on Fixing a hole and Golden Slumbers. He also dueted with others on Good morning Good morning, A day in the life, Because, and She came in through the bathroom window. 
Jon Toogood (Shihad) was remarkably jiggy. He handled all the 'fun' tunes and was brilliant, such a joy in his performance and a great young John AND Paul voice!!! He sung Being for the benefit of Mr Kite, Maxwell's Silver Hammer, Polythene King. His handling of the Lennon vocals on A day in the life was spine tingling.
Tim Morrison (the only unknown, apparently he was on one of those 'singing' shows), was rather fetching and had a great voice, particularly youngish Paul. He sung When I'm Sixty-four, Something, and You never give me your money, and Dueted on Getting Better. Something was a show stopper on the teary type!
Of course Russell Morris was Superb, that was always going to be a given. He got the biggies, Within you without you, Lovely Rita, Oh Darling, and Here comes the sun. He killed Oh Darling, which is a favourite and a hard song to cover.

But the jaw dropper for me was Jack Jones. He sung in that awful Southern Sons thing from the 80s, I would never had rated him at could I be so wrong? He was a gobsmackingly brilliant performer, what a voice and guitar playing! Underrated they said, I would agree. Jack just killed it every time he was on stage, Lucy in the sky with diamonds, She's leaving home, I want you, Sun King, and Her Majesty. When he squeezed his nose to replicate the funky sound Lennon makes on Lucy I gasped...why!?! But it worked...I can't even... And I want you was most possibly the most astonishing vocal and guitar performance I have EVER seen.
The remaining songs, Sgt Peppers and reprise, With a little help, Come together, Octopus's Garden, and Carry that weight/The End were sung as a group.

About halfway through I get all emotional thinking, imagine how good it would have been to see The Beatles do this...

These were gifted musicians, who obviously loved the material, you could hear in their voice and instrumentation, and see in on their faces. 
I am still reeling in a remarkable performance that had the entire audience on their feet at the end, if you get a chance and you love The Beatles or are just a music lover (cause really, if you love music, how can you NOT love The Beatles!?!?!) this is a must. I could easily see it again tonight!!!!!