Lisa Gerrard is a very singular artist and this concert with Paul Grabowsky is a continuation of their musical collaboration after having last played less than two years ago at the purpose built Ukaria Cultural Centre in the Adelaide Hills. For this appearance at the Adelaide Festival in the underground bunker-like venue of The Workshop somewhat isolated from the world above, in retrospect, it is possible to consider this performance as music to soundtrack an apocalypse with Lisa Gerrard’s other language vocalisations as portending tales of doom.
In the first of two sets, although the second after a half hour intermission was really more of an extended encore, there are familiar sounding parts that sound like Lisa’s former band Dead Can Dance and their idiosyncratic take on world music while other references that come to mind are the invented singing language of Sigur Ros and the extreme vocal exercises of Diamanda Galas, artists that have to some extent influenced each other. Paul’s playing is at times quite sparse and reserved and at others wildly frenetic with violent percussive foot stomping. It is not surprising given Paul’s jazz background that one section sounds like an old blues or jazz standard.
To what degree this lengthy unbroken suite is improvised cannot be determined and it doesn’t really matter. In his preamble to the second set, Paul refers to their collaboration somewhat enigmatically, “These songs exist in a space and be in a space and music allows that space to exist”. He reveals that the second set will consist of three pieces, Sacrifice (clarified as having been hinted at in the first set), Angel composed by Paul, and then Sleep by Lisa.
During this second set even though the pieces are more clearly delineated there still appears to be a degree of improvisation. Leading into the final piece, Lisa’s eyes are closed and she seems lost in thought as though awaiting Paul’s playing to inspire her to sing and at Paul’s most loose, she starts to sing in English for the only time this evening. This final song, Sleep, has a vocal melody that brings to mind both Adele’s Someone Like You and Nick Cave’s Darker With The Day and the lyrics,“Now sleep. Close your eyes and have no fear. A wide blue sky is very near” are suitably lulling. She opens her eyes and smiles and for a few moments stands graciously accepting the audience applause. The intensity and drama of the performance was then contrasted by Lisa turning to leave but first pausing to acknowledge the zebra in the room by caressing its snout.
On the way off stage, she steps up to Paul’s microphone and thanks the audience for coming, “You were very brave” and although this was most probably referring to the impending pestilence, given the dynamic range of Lisa’s voice and the lengthy unbroken first set, it could also be taken to be about the performance that came before.
Adelaide Festival Review By Jason Leigh