One of the very pleasing things about the Fringe is how it fills most corners of the city with art. And so it was that we had the opportunity to hear David Bridie, the distinctive Australian songwriter and performer, at Trinity Church on Goodwood Road.
He sat before two keyboards beneath a crucifix draped with a rainbow flag, the late afternoon sun filtering through the stain-glass windows, and delivered a range of songs from his solo career and a few from his bands My Friend the Chocolate Cake and Not Drowning Waving.
The first half was mostly songs from Bridie’s recent solo album, Wake, apparently written after a period of personal turbulence.
Bridie has always been a very interesting performer, almost a conundrum. He’s a somewhat awkward, almost ineloquent, figure between songs. It’s a contrast with his performing, which is assured and based on a bedrock of lyrical proficiency bordering on genius. He gets lost in the performance, head thrown back, audience transported, and then he forgets the lyrics (a couple of times in this performance).
His work, as he points out, is sparse – that plaintive piano, that distinctive breathy, Aussie-inflected voice. But it’s also a voice that can soar and expand into a rich baritone.
The best of his songs take on the character of a short story. “Deserters”, with images of country life flickering on a screen above him (footy practice, a baby being cradled and draped in a football jumper), is a highlight, with Bridie’s rippling piano and the haunting refrain, “You can tell so much about a place by the way they treat their own, the way they treat their own deserters”.
His words take us through trips to the outback, the flatlands of northern Slovenia, inside Papua New Guinea, and to the streets of Melbourne – a late-night walk around his suburb to escape the “chatter” at home, memories of swinging on an old willow tree in the backyard of a Richmond house, and relentless rain on the “Shortest Day of the Year”.
At one point he reads an email from a friend on Manus Island – the home to Australia’s newest asylum-seeker detention centre. It’s a disturbing read about the harsh conditions, the oppressive humidity, the lack of a local welfare system or health services, and the general feeling on the island that “it’s going to blow”.
He follows this with his stunning asylum-seeker song “Treason”, with its question – “has it all come to treason now?” Then he rips into a jaunty version of Billy Ocean’s throwaway pop, “Love Really Hurts Without You”, before abruptly ending it. “I’m not feeling it,” he explains.
Bridie throws his old fans a bone at the end, with the wistful Chocolate Cake song “I’ve Got a Plan”, before finishing up with Hank Williams’ aching waltz, “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry”.
There’s more good news for fans: Bridie and the whole Chocolate Cake crew could be coming back later in the year to perform at Trinity Church. Keep an eye out for details – it will sell out.
David Bridie’s performance at Trinity Church in Clarence Park was a one-off Adelaide Fringe show.
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Click here for all InDaily’s 2014 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews.
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