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Review: Kate Ceberano

Adelaide Fringe

Given her reputation for breezy pop, it’s easy to forget that Kate Ceberano’s first solo album was an impressive collection of jazz standards, backed by a seriously talented septet. ★★★★

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Nearly 30 years ago, the then 20-year-old toured on the back of the recording, transporting the audience in the old Club Foote on Blyth Street, just off Hindley, to the glamorous days of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, with Ceberano’s distinctive voice showing brilliant flashes of both of these vocal giants.

Ceberano, now closing in on 50, remains one of our brightest pop vocal talents, giving the sold-out Spiegeltent on Saturday a generous dose of nostalgia, showcasing many of her pop hits both pre- and post that jazz recording.

Backed by veteran guitarist James Ryan, and young singers Alison Ainsworth and Jessica Fairlie, Ceberano remakes her songs in a breezy contemporary style, fusing pop with jazz and new country influences.

In this mode, the likes of “Brave” becomes a gentle, swaying tune. Noting the trend for ’80s artists to slow down their hits and make them into jazz tunes, Ceberano does the same to “Bedroom Eyes”, starting it off with a Gloria Gaynor-style soul wail, before settling the song into a light reggae beat.

X Factor runner-up Dean Ray made a cameo appearance, with Ceberano’s tongue-in-cheek flirting with the young troubadour negating the need for her to reprise her dodgiest tune, “Young Boys are My Weakness”.

Instead, they did a sweet duet of Bob Dylan’s much-covered “Make You Feel My Love”. Ray also stood in admirably for the late James Freud on a beautifully melodic version of The Models’ 1980s hit “Barbados” (Ceberano sang vocals on the original).

Ceberano, who took on keyboard and percussion responsibilities, showed her versatility, soaring on one of her teenage favourites, Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird”, and channelling Dolly Parton on the the traditional country tune “I Never Will Marry”. Both were sparkling and both ended – as did every song – with Ceberano breaking into her trademark mile-wild smile. She loves performing, and the packed-in audience loved her.

One quibble: I know the Fringe format, particularly at the Garden, is fast and breezy, but I would like to see some longer-format concerts, particularly with artists of Ceberano’s stature. The one-hour format gives the audience just a bit beyond a taste, but doesn’t allow performers to settle into a more reflective streak. Given Ceberano’s incredible stylistic range, I would have loved her to be able to bracket in more from her recent album Kensal Road or some more jazz, for example.

With the likes of Kate, more is more.

Four stars

Kate Ceberano played a one-off show at the Spiegeltent on Saturday.

 

 

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