Reviews/Music/Perth Festival

Unadulterated adoration

22 February 2021

Can Tim Minchin ever put a foot wrong? For Apart Together, David Zampatti joined a rapturous home crowd cheering on the return of their Golden Boy.

Apart Together, Tim Minchin and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Perth Festival ·
King’s Park, 21 February, 2021 ·

In the past decade, Tim Minchin has performed in his hometown only occasionally – King’s Park in 2011, at the Arena in Jesus Christ Superstar in 2013, and, memorably, joined by his family and friends at the Fremantle Town Hall in 2015 – but somehow it feels like he’s always here.

In part, that’s because he is so very Perth, and it’s also because we feel as though we’ve gone along with him on his ascent through the UK and the US. He’s our boy.

So last Sunday, when Minchin stepped out on the stage on a Perth evening straight out of central casting – with a beaming Iggy (Perth Festival director Iain Grandage) already at the piano – five thousand of us settled in for a night of unadulterated adoration, perched on our folding chairs or stretched out on our picnic rugs.

It was a long one too: Apart Together, the new album, clocks in at exactly 49 minutes and 58 seconds and it made up the entire set, apart from the two inevitable encores, “When I Grow up” from Matilda and “White Wine in the Sun”, which says it all about him (and, hopefully, us).

The Festival program promised us an 80-minute show, but Minchin was on stage for 140. He must have nattered happily away for something like 80 minutes. A real Tim Talk. Of course, he’s really ace at talking, and we lapped up stories about writing the Apart Together songs, Mt Lawley pizza shops, playing Fabian in Twelfth Night in King’s Park in 2001, not doing Highway to Hell, Los Angeles, his Stan Grant interview, wokeness and just about everything else under the sun.

The real purpose of the exercise, of course, was to introduce the album, his first major label collection of non-comic songs.

Eleven Australian composers – including Grandage – orchestrated one song each for the concert. They were performed by a 31-piece force from the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO), conducted by Jessica Gethin, and a five-piece band – Minchin (piano, keyboard, acoustic guitar), Steve Hensby (guitar), Ben VanderWal (drums), Karl Florrison (bass) and Helen Shanahan (backing vocals). The arrangements were delicious, the playing by both orchestra and band faultless.

When Minchin, his band and WASO played together 10 years ago, the marriage was uncomfortable. I described it at the time as like an ocean liner and a speedboat travelling in convoy, with the ever-present danger one would swamp the other.

Tim Minchin and conductor Jessica Gethin. Photo: Corey James Photography

No such danger this time around – the different elements dovetailed perfectly, Gethin’s conducting was firm but unobtrusive, the sound quality was exemplary and Minchin was in fine voice.

And he’s come up with a cracking set of songs. None of them are funny, some are very forlorn and lonely, but his wit and wordplay always keep the glums away. They range from the Hoodoo Gurus-like “Beautiful Head” to the spare, sad “I Can’t Help You” (a counterpoint, consciously or otherwise, to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after Time”, the melody of which it echoes). There’s the combative “Leaving LA” and the sweet romance of “Carry You”, the impish, reflective “If This Plane Goes Down”, the confessional “The Absence of You”, and the tender title track, highlighted this night by Brent Grapes’ superb trumpet solo.

They’re all great. Melodic, various and wise. Actually, the whole package – the album, the video clips, now the live concert – is great.

Tim Minchin has said that all he’s ever really wanted to be is a rock star. You know what? With Apart Together, he just might pull it off.

Pictured top: Tim Minchin on acoustic guitar accompanied by Perth Festival director Iain Grandage on piano, Steve Hensby on electric guitar and backing singer Helen Shanahan. Photo: Corey James Photography

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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