Adelaide Cabaret Festival – The Narelles

Two decades worth of hits, innumerable studio albums, scandals, image revamps, an unwavering rock and roll lifestyle and delusions of grandeur. This could describe several well-known rock bands – in this instance, the forgotten Australian band: The Narelles. Having stood the test of time, The Narelles are now astounding cabaret audiences with renditions of the hits that never were, the anecdotes that could never have been, all in the guise of a band that never was.

The Narelles. Photo by wombat
The Narelles. Photo by wombat

It’s only fitting that the man with encyclopaedic music knowledge, Alan Brough of Spicks and Specks fame, would seek to live out his ambitious Rock and Roll Dream. Casey Bennetto, well-known from Keating! The Musical, is his musical partner and delusion enabler. The pair charge through their various ‘hits’, interchanging lead vocals and instruments, demonstrating just how versatile The Narelles really are.

The bass and electric guitars, with a spattering of single note piano solos (Brough is practically a virtuoso), may not be played well, but are definitely played enthusiastically. The music is the foundation for what really matters – the lyrics. ‘This Song’, with its infuriating chorus and ‘Mr. Nick Cave’ – the tribute song they haven’t been asked to write yet – were hilarious.

Throughout the evening, Bennetto and Brough show glimpses of their solo careers. Bennetto’s The Big Banana was certainly more successful than Brough’s 2001 musical faux pas. Their different musical direction did however lead to the happy melding of Urban R&B with Alt Folk in the hit ‘Robot Booty’.

In contrast to the energetic and boisterous front-men, The Narelles third and often forgotten member, Gary X, is never seen. Unfortunately he is afflicted with crippling stage-fright and plays his computer-perfect drums from at least 200 meters away (in this instance, from a tent on Popeye in the River Torrens).

In a show where the music is simple, the story is fun and the delivery is enormously energetic, it leaves you wishing that The Narelles, the band that never was, had actually existed. The hits of The Narelles are a wonderful parody of the rock and roll industry and, while Casey Bennetto and Alan Brough may not be rock stars, they still rock!

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