★★★★½ Ceberano’s evolving cabaret transcends both old and new.

Spiegeltent, Adelaide Fringe Festival
March 5, 2016

The bitter irony of being an ‘eighties icon’ pop princess approaching your 50th birthday is not lost on Kate Ceberano. Burdened with a canon of national hits including songs about bedroom eyes and pashing, how does one reinvent oneself or adapt as an artist to perform that material as a middle-aged diva? The answer is that a musician, whether a princess or cougar in waiting, is still a musician. In her salad days, Ceberano moved effortlessly between the pop and jazz genres and what she showed in her concert in a sweltering Spiegeltent surrounded by petrolheads is the ability to give those hits a Lazarus-like defibrillation by modifying them into jazz or even reggae clones.

Still foxy in her Jean-Paul Gautier outfit, Ceberano opened on piano with only guitarist James Ryan accompanying her, but it didn’t take me long to recognise her paired back balladic modification of one of her biggest hits, Brave. With her regular band away touring with Belinda Carlisle, Ceberano restocked wisely and generously with two Triple J unearthed talents Alison Ainsworth on guitar and vocals and Jess Fairlie on vocals. As a result, the audience were treated to sweet harmonies on the reggae-like arrangement of Bedroom Eyes and You and I. Enter another neophyte in the hunky form of Dean Ray (otherwise known as Pritchard), the runner-up on series 6 of The X-Factor, to give us a fine duet with Ceberano of the Bob Dylan classic Make me Feel My Love (and yes, I know Adele also does a nice cover). What was now a quintet then combined seamlessly on the Models’ almost forgotten masterpiece, Barbados.

Running overtime after perhaps overdoing the inter-song banter, Kate had to cut four songs to three. It appears that the Bowie cover got the axe, but I wouldn’t have traded it for the three ladies’ tender rendition of the Linda Ronstadt/Dolly Parton I Never Will Marry, Ceberano’s underrated original Three Small Words, and of course, that notorious song about kissing with tongues, given a fresh injection of funk and rhythm. Sitting near the back, I couldn’t help notice the spontaneous way that the audience leapt to their feet for a standing ovation at concert’s end confirming that artists who evolve can transcend the old and the new.

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