Henry Wagons MC’s this nostalgic trip down music-legend-memory-lane apparently as a cross-roads demon or some such, implying entry to this exclusive club involves selling your soul for stardom.
More concert than cabaret, the kick-arse band (The Hell Hounds, musically directed by John Thorn) proceed to rock out to all the hits made famous by these exceptional young artists who were taken too soon.
Wagons is in full regalia and has decent chops to sing the opening number, but never really settles during the set, trying a little too hard for audience appreciation and falling back on tired conventions (guy in the front row anyone?).
Each cover is presented by singers Hayley Mary (of Jezabels fame), Carla Lippis (Adelaide’s own) and Daniel Champagne providing their unique spin on what have now become classics. Mary has all the huskiness and rock-star aura you’d expect and is particularly suited to the Joplin songs, but her pitchy upper register doesn’t really hit the mark in the intimate Dunstan Playhouse venue. Lippis is made for the Winehouse tracks with a stunning rendition of ‘Back to Black’ and channels plenty of grunge for her own spin on Cobain.
It is Champagne however that is the stand out. Looking like he just rolled out of bed, he oozes “muso” with some super fancy fingerwork on the guitar and a voice that is perfect for this style of show. His work is effortless and really enjoyable. Each performer brings their own flavour and with Wagons tying it together, the quartet works well to deliver a rocking show.
While the debate about “what constitutes cabaret” has been well and truly thrown out the window this year, it is intriguing as to why the Festival chose to programme this particular show. The cross-section of Baby Boomer, Gen X and beyond in the audience shows us that this music crosses generations, but the static nature of sitting in a proscenium arch theatre contradicts the “heart” of the show, which seemingly would be better suited to a big pub stage or the Thebby.
All of that aside, this Gen X’er loved the music most of all, and may have (definitely) gone home to re-listen to Nirvana for the evening to continue the nostalgia and appreciation.