Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Blissed out minimalism

Perth Festival Review: Cat Power ⋅
Chevron Gardens, Elizabeth Quay, February 14 ⋅
Review by Varnya Bromilow ⋅

It was the kind of blessed Perth night when, on the way to the gig, you see women in burqas gleefully splashing in rainbow-hued water fountains. Not too hot, not too cool, wondrously still. Sure, the venue might be named after a multinational oil company, and sure, Elizabeth Quay might be a strangely treeless urbanscape, but Perth was feeling pretty rosy on Thursday night as a capacity crowd welcomed American songstress Cat Power to the stage.

The Atlanta native’s onstage reputation precedes her – and not in a positive way.  Chan Marshall is a performer who wears her heart firmly on her sleeve and while her talent is never in dispute, the quality of her live performances frequently is. Past performances have attracted some rather savage reviews due to her reluctance onstage – she’s like the anti-Elvis Costello – you never know what to expect. Who can forget the cruelly abbreviated show at the Fly By Night in 2003?  A good show at The Astor in 2010 won back hearts but her last Festival show in 2013 was a clanger, with Marshall full of apologies. Happily, for this Valentine’s crowd, the fourth visit to Perth for the artist was marked by a mood of blissed-out grace.

Opening proceedings was Cross Bones Style, a fan favourite taken from what is widely considered her masterwork – 1998’s Moon Pix.  The crowd firmly in hand, Marshall’s soaring voice acted an aural beacon for the rest of the show.  Certainly there was little to see – a dimly lit stage, conspicuously devoid of any spotlight, kept the star well obscured.  But when you have a voice like Marshall’s, perhaps you don’t need visual input?  From the throaty whisper of He Turns Down to the anthemic Woman from her latest offering Wanderer, she sang without reserve, often with the barest accompaniment. Marshall’s voice is the focal point of her music – the instrumentation, while often gorgeous, drops away into the background. She always sounds as though she’s giving away parts of her soul when she sings – it is focused, intensely personal and raw. No wonder then that performance sometimes seems a task too great.

Musically speaking, it was a generous set – old gems set alongside newer material with snippets of covers and medleys – bits of Glen Campbell’s take on These Days; a line from Dark End of the Street – thrown in for good measure, but always incorporated and made her own. The more contemporary songs had an almost modal quality – stripped back to a single instrumental phrase that was then worked around and around with her vocals.  The effect was circular, almost hypnotic, the crowd lulled into a soft summer fugue.

The majesty of Marshall’s voice seems to attract a particularly high calibre of accompanists – past efforts have recruited The Dirty Three, Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder.  For this series of shows, she plays with an accomplished band, including a remarkable multi-instrumentalist proficient on mellotron, bass and baritone guitar.  In the darkness of the staging, the players were all but anonymous, but the sonics spoke for themselves.  Marshall’s sparse songs were brought to vivid life, drawing upon an eclectic range of musical traditions (rock, blues, punk, soul) to create a distinctively minimalist sound, full of space and sadness.

Were her voice less impressive, or the weather not as beatific, the complete absence of stagecraft might have been disappointing. But as Marshall’s voice wafted over the still, warm air, the crowd was grateful.  “Thank you for accepting my soul!”  She said as she left the stage, seemingly as gratified by the experience as the sated crowd.

Pictured top: Cat Power. Photo Eliot Lee Hazel. 

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Archie Roach
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Wanju Ba Boorlo – Welcome to Perth

8 February @ Chevron Gardens ·
Archie Roach with Special Guests ·

As our elder statesman of song, Archie Roach possesses a soulfulness ofepic proportions. To open Chevron Gardens we present an evening that showcases some of our finest Indigenous voices led by Archie Roach, our elder statesman of song and story. We’re shining a spotlight on the next wave of artistic excellence with a line-up including Radical Son, Emily Wurramara and John Bennett from Broome.

Join us as we open the Festival with an evening celebrating diversity and the rich musical traditions shared by our first nation artists and storytellers.

Please note: This is a fully seated event with no standing area.

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Christine and the Queens
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Christine and The Queens

3 March @ Chevron Gardens ·
Presented by Christine and the Queens ·

Since she first burst on the music scene, Héloïse Letissier (AKA Christine and the Queens) has been a bold and welcome force of bravado and artistry. She has cemented her place as a veritable pop legend with Chris, her acclaimed second record which explores unabashed female desire and complex questions of gender and sexuality performed over pulsating synth-pop beats. Christine and the Queens’ chic and sensual live show promises a place where completely contagious music is drenched in sweat and vulnerability.

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Pictured: Christine and The Queens

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Julia Jacklin and Julien Baker
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Julia Jacklin + Julien Baker

21 February @ Chevron Gardens ·
Presented by Julia Jacklin + Julien Baker ·

Indie-folk charmers Julia Jacklin and Julien Baker are renowned for searing ballads, breathtaking vulnerability and deft lyricism. Where Baker unfurls songs that are meditative and introspective, Jacklin melds confessional alt-country with dreamy indie pop. An evening in the company of this pair promises sophisticated songcraft, wit and wisdom delivered in their equally silken tones.

Gardens Stage: Jack Davies and the Bush Chooks

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Pictured: Julia Jacklin, credit: Nick McKinlay

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The Preatures
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: The Preatures Unplugged with Abbe May

17 February @ Chevron Gardens ·
Presented by The Preatures Unplugged with Abbe May ·

One of our best-loved pop-rock bands, The Preatures bristle with hook-laden swagger and retro flair. Led by mercurial goddess Izzi Manfredi the fourpiece combine sassy melodies with sizzling anthems such as ‘Is This How You Feel?’ and ‘Somebody’s Talking’. For their Perth Festival debut we present the charismatic Sydney quartet stripped back and raw for an evening of unplugged delight.

WA’s own guitar-slinging, beat-driven, indie riff-rocking femme fatale gets your Sunday session started right.

Gardens Stage: Tanaya Harper

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Pictured: The Preatures


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Aloe Blacc
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Aloe Blacc

15 February @ Chevron Gardens ·
Presented by Aloe Blacc ·

He was the smooth operator who needed a dollar, then he rose up to be ‘The Man’, not to mention adding vocals to Avicii’s smash hit ‘Wake Me Up’. In a flurry of funk-fuelled singles, a modern soul man of Marvin Gaye-esque flair emerged as Aloe Blacc: a charismatic gentleman with a velvety tenor, a taste for neo-soul and a penchant for well-crafted, richly textured contemporary R&B classics.

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Pictured: Aloe Blacc

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The Others
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: The Others

10 February @ Chevron Gardens ·
Presented by The Others ·

There are few moments in live music as truly delightful, surprising and fulfilling as free-spirited musical cross-pollination. In the hands of three giants of Australian music – trumpeter James Morrison, composer and pianist Paul Grabowsky and Spiderbait’s kryptonite Kram on drums – jazz improvisation reaches giddying heights. An improv supergroup, The Others is an unbridled collision of magical musical personalities – a wild, immersive and hypnotic trio.

Please note: This is a fully seated event with no standing area.

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Pictured: The Others, credit: Kim Densham

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Orbitals with Feels
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Orbital with Feels

2 March @ Chevron Gardens ·
Presented by Orbital with Feels ·

Britain’s giants of electronic music are back. Mashing cosmic ambience with bouncy, turbulent beats, Orbital are a testament to the enduring strength of old-school, rave-friendly electronic music. With techno precision riding their slick beat matrix, the Hartnoll brothers espouse jubilant glow-stick goodness, guaranteeing stadium stomp and melodic hooks with glitchy nuances. Renowned for epic festival appearances and tracks that bubble with ethereal giddiness, Orbital thrive where punk meets acid-tinged house.

Gardens Stage | Lana Rothnie

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Pictured: Orbital, credit: Gavin Batty

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The Internet
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: The Internet

1 March @ Chevron Gardens ·
Presented by The Internet ·

Enter a landscape of low-slung funk where Motown melodies and perky rhythms fuse with R&B party jams. A Grammy-nominated super-group born from a crew of LA-based producers, The Internet possess a chemistry that is equal parts mellow, seductive and groove-laden. They bring to the Gardens kaleidoscopic, neo-soul, future sounds from their electric new album Hive Mind.  Submit to the jams.

Gardens Stage: Jamilla

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Pictured: The Internet, credit: Alan Lear

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Beach House
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Beach House

28 February @ Chevron Gardens ·
Presented by Beach House ·

Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House delve into the twisted double edge of glamour with an overwhelming cinematic live show. Exploring the beauty that arises from darkness, the band say they were ‘channelling some kind of heavy truth’ for their seventh record, and transcendent forces are indeed at work.

At once intimate and cosmic, Beach House explode onto the stage with glorious finesse and grandeur, bringing their adored songbook to kaleidoscopic life.

Gardens Stage | Grievous Bodily Calm

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Pictured: Beach House, credit: Shawn Brackbill

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