Monday, 26 July 2010

Songs From The Middle****1/2

Songs From The Middle
By Eddie Perfect and The Brodsky Quartet, Melbourne Cabaret Festival
Where and When: South Melbourne Town Hall, 25-26 July
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****1/2

Eddie Perfect’s passionate voice brings tears to my eyes. It is thrilling. His witty, ironic lyrics make me laugh until I hurt. When you blend his soaring vocal tones, charm and wit with the silky, sexy strings of The Brodsky Quartet, additional musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music and arrangements by Iain Grandage, the result is a cabaret masterpiece.

Songs From The Middle is a collection of songs about Mentone ­ yes, Mentone, that bayside suburb that is neither glossy, well-heeled Brighton nor the tranquil Mornington Peninsula. Eddie grew up there, went to St. school there, fell in love, visited to malls and Bunnings there. He left Mentone in anger but this time, he sings, “I’m leaving in peace.”

The relentlessly prosaic quality of life in Mentone stands in stark contrast to the complexity of Grandage’s arrangements, the sheer beauty of the strings plus percussion, wind instruments and piano. But, mixed with the pure ordinariness of Eddie’s memories and the banality of the stories is a wistfulfulness for the lost past, a social commentary on the suburbs and an honouring of the lives that ordinary people lead.

The show is about personal history so Perfect begins with a witty lament for the loss of the simple life in (I Liked It Better) The Way It Was. He follows it with Frankston Line, the pulsating, percussive song that echoes the rattle and clunk of a train ride, in the voice of a disenfranchised, young vandal who tags (graffiti) his signature on every station along the Frankston train line.

There you will recognise if you know Mentone (I do) such as Bunnings, Nepean Highway, Mentone Beach. There are poignant memories of young love including Plummer Road that is about a storm water drain and a girl that lived on the street. There is a sweet instrumental dedicated to Susan Morgan, a childhood crush who passed away as a young adult. Then Perfect makes us roar laughing with a song about love falling apart like an IKEA shelf in I Wanna Go Home.

In What Are We To Do?, aliens land in Mentone in 1992 and no one knows what to do, including the Mayor. The aliens realise how boring the life is in Mentone and fly away leaving everyone changed.

The finale is a hauntingly simple anthem to Mentone and we get sing along with Perfect and, miraculously, The Brodsky Quartet. It is a musically scintillating show, with charm, skill and heart.

By Kate Herbert

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