Archive for March, 2018

American Idiot…
March 9, 2018

In the lobby, I suggested some upcoming productions that could go onto our list for future evenings in the theatre. I recommended Red Stitch’s Colder or Melancholia at the Malthouse. One of my companions commented that she does not like to feel depressed when she goes to the theatre.

American Idiot,
Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, March 8, 2018…

All over the darkened set, televisions flicker to life, displaying images of the reign of President Trump: this production will clearly have a new focus of rage from that beneath Green Day’s original American Idiot album, though throughout the show the production uses projections directly onto the set to carry the album’s message of televised political propaganda.

American Idiot cast, photo by Ken LeanforeThe stage adaptation of the story apparently beneath the American Idiot album expands upon the kind of bleak imagery of the Boulevard Of Broken Dreams video clip, but unlike the stylised video, plays it straight. There aren’t a lot of laughs in this show. Rebellious outcasts head from their ‘Make America Great Again’-cap wearing community with dreams of a new life in the city, only to be thwarted by drug addiction, unplanned pregnancy and the seduction of government propaganda.

Nevertheless, the cast and musicians perform the soundtrack well within a simple but effective set, and seeing the songs performed in this way feels a lot like a new, live take on the long form music video. It feels more devoted to its source than other jukebox musical tributes, like We Will Rock You, which can seem like commercial afterthoughts (though I’ve seen quality productions.) Green Day fans should appreciate the experience.

For others, the plot could prove too heavy to enjoy. The three main characters are hard to empathise with, whilst we are left to wonder about the exploits of their female counterparts in the meantime. It is a shame, because some of the talent in those roles shine – Phoebe Panaretos as ‘Whatsername’ in particular brought an unexpected take to Green Day’s music with her vocals reminiscent of Anastacia. Kaylah Attard was also impressive in the unfortunately fleeting role of the nurse, ‘Extraordinary Girl.’

Themes like those explored on stage in American Idiot aren’t new to musical theatre any more (the set and story are kind of reminiscent of Rent – there is even a scene where characters are filmed on stage and projected,) Green Day fans will enjoy being able to sing along and Sarah McLeod in the rotating role of ‘St Jimmy’ this evening elicited well-deserved cheers from the moment she appeared and stalked the stage menacingly. Those unfamiliar with the source material looking for a new musical to enjoy might leave feeling overwhelmed by the grim tone, though some of the big cast numbers like Jesus Of Suburbia are enjoyable, despite the tone.  Hopefully the next Green Day musical can draw inspiration from Warning and capture the punk rebellion with a brighter tone to capture both audiences.  Or maybe that is just wishful thinking…

Green Day’s American Idiot runs in Melbourne until March 11, then moves to QPAC Playhouse in Brisbane from April 13 to 21, and Darwin’s Entertainment Centre from May 4 to 6.

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The Guero Tour…
March 1, 2018

Last time I saw Beck, it was with a very folksy backing band. It was a good show, but I was still reeling from Midnite Vultures, and have always been disappointed that I didn’t get to see Beck in weird-pop mode.

Beck, with Meg Mac,
Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, February 28, 2018…

That strange arrangement that Margaret Court Arena seems to have whereby artists start performing mere moments after the time listed on the tickets for gates to open has come to pass once more this evening. It has meant that Meg Mac and her band performed for a much smaller audience than they might have if they had started once those arriving had had a chance to pass rigorous security measures, buy a drink, and settle in. It was a shame, because those dedicated few at the front of the stage and cheering from the stands enjoyed an excellent performance.

MegMacMeg and the band led them in a clap-along for Grandma’s Hands, a song which showed off not only Meg, but her sister’s skills on backing vocals.  Radio hits like Low Blows and Grace Gold were great to hear live, and the Like A Version cover of Tame Impala’s Let It Happen was the favourite of the audience. It was a good set that made a lot of people vow to catch a Meg Mac headline show, especially for those moments when her guitarists all trade their instruments for even more keyboards.

Luckily, by the time the lights dimmed, the floor had filled up a little more, although there were still large chunks of empty seats in the stands, and sections closed down into ‘intimate mode.’ But the stage was full – crowded with a variety of instruments including an elaborate drum kit, keyboards, and an upright piano, along with seven other band members, all of which Beck himself bounded confidently through, to launch right into Devil’s Haircut. With all hands on deck to recreate the different layers of sound in the song, the band didn’t get much of a break. This was not the Sea Change tour folk show. This was a show for moving.

BeckWith a backdrop of WinAmp Visualisations, Beck and his band tore through a high-energy set with a strong representation of songs from the current Colors album and also from Guero. The Guero songs in particular sounded incredible live. Also surprisingly very effective live were some of Beck’s frequent dalliances into hip-hop territory. Qué Onda Guero and especially new song Wow were unexpected set highlights that let both the audience and Beck himself exhibit their sly dance moves.

On the other hand, an acoustic solo section mid set might have been intended to provide a break, but felt somewhat at odds with the theme of the rest of the show. A couple of covers, followed by a silly local version of Debra did, at least, pave the way for the lone Sea Change offering, Lost Cause, which gradually brought us back to the pace of the rest of the show, to finish the main set on a high with E-Pro.

After a costume change, Beck brought his band back out to finish with with a well received Loser and an extended version of Where It’s At, interspersed with a chance for each one of the touring musicians to be properly introduced and to play a solo. In the end, it was an incredible weird-pop show. But I have still not heard Sexx Laws played live.