Tonight’s show as part of the 2022 Adelaide Cabaret Festival showcases songs our performers first heard by their mothers and family when they were young as well as performing some of their greatest hits. Tina Arena hopes we are all comfy and welcomes us to this makeshift home at Her Majesty’s Theatre. The ornate set has many beautiful lights and lamps spectacularly suspended above the stage. The first song was appropriately Our House by Madness and was performed by everyone and sounded splendid, especially with the excellent string quartet on the right of the stage and the rest of the band on the left led by Mark Ferguson on piano.
Tina Arena, this year’s Cabaret Festival artistic director, has had a remarkable career and sings us the Italian song Maledetta Primavera (Damned Spring) that she had sung with her family in her youth. Later we get the incredible Caruso by Tina which is one of my mother’s favourite Italian songs written about the tenor Enrico Caruso. Tina sings her huge hit Sorrento Moon with Jess Hitchcock tonight and it was sensational. I learnt for the first time that the Sorrento being sung about is the one in Victoria and not Italy as I had thought for years.
Jess Hitchcock is an award-winning opera singer and songwriter and I have seen her perform with both Kate Miller-Heidke and Paul Kelly in recent years. I saw Jess perform in this year’s Adelaide Festival show called Wudjang and she was one of the best performers in that show. I hope that she does her own shows here soon after she releases her latest album this year. Tonight she performed Stupid Cupid by Connie Francis, a tribute to her mother who still loves to sing 50s and 60s hits in the kitchen when she is cooking. She next sang one of her traditional Torres Strait tunes called Baba Waiyar which is a song of welcome and farewell.
Thando has performed at some of Australia’s biggest festivals including Womadelaide as well as just coming off being in the final for this year’s The Voice on Channel 7. Thando performed stunning versions of Survivor by Beyonce as well as Golden by Jill Scott and then a haunting Zulu lullaby from her youth called Tula Tula (Hush now, Hush now)
Sophie Koh is an Australian singer born in New Zealand to Malaysian Chinese parents. Her first song was the spirited Wa Yao Ni De Ai. (I Want Your Love) which was a hit song by Chinese actress and pop star Grace Chang from the 1950s. The song was most recently used in the soundtrack for the film Crazy Rich Asians I have seen Sophie many times in Adelaide and she always puts on an excellent show. She brought her album Book of Songs to the Ozasia festival in 2019 and she played two of those songs tonight. Sophie played the piano herself on the moving Yellow Rose and later we were treated to the gentle and wistful Gan Lan Shu (Olive Tree). Both of these songs were inspired by the poetry in the Book of Songs which is an ancient anthology of Chinese poems, dating back to the Zhou kingdom 3000 years ago.
Wendy Matthews was born in Canada and her first song was a cover of fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell’s Cherokee Louise and is a song about Joni’s real-life First Nations school friend. Wendy told us that often lived in Joni’s emotional observations. Wendy’s rich beautiful vocals were showcased when she performed Standing Strong from her 1994 The Witness Tree album. Growing up in Montreal, Wendy had a grandfather who was half Scottish and half Spanish and she sang the powerful Long Way from Home a traditional Scottish song taught to her by him. Later Wendy sang an unforgettable French version of her biggest hit The Day You Went Away.
Lior first came to my attention soon after his debut album was released in 2005 and he has performed in Adelaide many times as both a solo artist and with his many collaborations. I was lucky to see him the previous night performing one such show which was a collaboration with Domini Forster. Lior performed a very playful song called Gan Sagur (Kindergarten is Closed) which was from a vinyl album of his favourite songs that he would ask his mother to play for him. Lior then sang the touching and expressive Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father Our King) which is a traditional Hebrew prayer which has the beautiful sentiment “Instill me with a greater sense of compassion so that I can be liberated”. Later, Lior gave us his rendition of a most touching song called Shir L’Shalom (A song for Peace) which had a heart breaking story connected to it in relation to peace efforts in Israel.
The penultimate song of the night was This Old Love performed by Lior and the ensemble and it sounded magnificent. Tina Arena then led the group sing-along of Tintarella di Luna which she said is often played at Italian weddings. This was a wonderful night of stories, singing and music. Each singer was allowed to shine in this rare chance to connect with our performer’s personal histories.
Adelaide Cabaret Festival Review By Richard De Pizzol