Sunday, October 30, 2011

Notes From The Hard Road and Beyond Into Sunday

Saturday Night on our weekend in Melbourne saw us all set for the Notes from The Hard Road & Beyond Concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. After 2 days of rain we were concerned it would be uncomfortable as our seats were just outside the under cover section.

Armed with Rain jackets, ponchos and a positive attitude we traipsed across the gardens to the concert site. A short walk and well organised we were soon at our slightly damp seats.

The show was billed thus

notes from the hard road and beyond chronicles an inspiring canon of songs from civil rights, anti-war and women's suffrage to environmentalism, feminism and the abolition movement in a glorious and daring celebration of the music of protest, rebellion, love and hope.
Weaving together music by Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Leonard Cohen, Pete Seeger and Green Day, to name just a few, notes from the hard road and beyond is a unique and joyous testament to the indomitable nature of the human spirit, expressed through music.
Pop meets polemic in a spectacular tribute to the lives and voices that have marked, and in some cases changed, the course of human history.

The line up was fierce with Mavis Staples, Joss Stone, Rickie Lee Jones, Paul Dempsey, Emmanual Jal, John Schumann and the Black Arm Band - this time featuring Archie Roach, Shane Howard, Mark Atkins, Emma Donnovan and stalwart members Lou Bennett and Shellie Morris. There was much to be anticipated.

The first half delivered almost without flaw - the graphic images accompanying the songs was heart stopping and gripping.  Mavis Staples stole the show every time she stepped on stage, with Rickie Lee Jones and Archie Roach delivering powerful performances. Roach most notably delivering shivers to the audience with his Took The Children Away. Donnovan's rendition of Strange Fruit was gripping and probably the highlight of the graphics used. The only odd notes were the graphics during Paul Dempsey's delivery of Leonard Cohen's the Future and Joss Stone's near pop rendition of I am Woman accompanied by some of the most powerful female voices (in Bennet, Morris and Donnovan). 

The second half was much less cohesive with songs Beyond about liberation and celebration. Emmanual Jal's Emma in the second half was a joyous and uplifing celebration (and I hope sent many in search of purchasing his great hip-hop). Jal's story is quite frankly unbelievable and immensely touching. His talent is huge. The Joss Stone Paul Dempsey duet on Throw Your Arms Around Me was strange as it appeared to be two artists completely out of touch with each other.

Rickie Lee Jones and Archie Roach performed Somewhere from West Side Story - strange but true and the combination worked! Roach then followed up with Into My Arms (by Nick Cave) but the transition was confusing. Staples again stepped on to the stage and the musicians all let her hold court (except for Stone - whose performance at this point reminded me of the Diva's concert where Celine Dion tried to keep up with Aretha Franklin).

The closing (well what should have been closing number) which had the whole cast singing Long Way to The Top was brilliant and there was no need for Stone to come out with a solo version of People Get Ready - strange.

The first half hit hard, the second left me lukewarm. I loved the experience but ache for what the second half could have been.

Sunday saw sun shining for the first time in our trip. An excursion towards the city saw us stumble on the Arts Centre Markets - great coffee and a heap of handmade and handcrafted items. I managed to spy (across quite a distance) hand-dyed yarn from Hawthorne Cottage picking up some sock yarn.

After this we walked along the river and found somewhere to have breakfast before heading back to the city for a wander around and a few ales overlooking the river before a trip to the airport where we enjoyed a 2 plus hour delay and missed the kick off for the RWC final.

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