She says she uses voodoo to make people love her, but Mojo Juju’s rich vocals and sultry charm cast a spell far more potent than any black magic.
Backed by a band comprising double bass, sax, drums and guitar, the program cover-girl for this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival immediately transports the audience to a steamy 1920s speakeasy where tales of gangsters and wild women segue into hoodoo blues songs about love, lust and the seedier side of life.
Swaggering on stage in trousers, waistcoat, slicked-back short hair, trilby and a sassy attitude to match, Mojo is a far cry from the traditional cabaret diva or chanteuse – but just as bewitching. With seductive double bass by the supremely talented Tim Murphy creating a palpable sense of anticipation and energy, she launched into the first story and song about a character called Pony (“Pony got caught in a bad, bad scene; couldn’t tell life from a joke or a dream”) and his sidekick Charlie.
From there, the narrative and lyrics traversed topics ranging from crime, drink and gambling, to infidelity and burlesque, with songs from her new self-titled album including “The Meanest Thing I Ever Done” [was kissed a girl and made her cry], “Parisian Rain”, [ever since you kissed me] “I Switched to Drinkin’ Gin”, and “Frankie Baby” – about a dancer who was “the kind of dame who could make a bishop kick a hole through a stained-glass window”.
When Mojo Juju was last in Adelaide two years ago, she was accompanied by her band the Snake Oil Merchants and a cast of burlesque beauties. The four musicians who accompany her this time around are all excellent and help fuel the noir energy and juke-joint vibe, but it is the charisma and character of Mojo Juju (who also plays electric guitar) that makes this show unique. She owns the stage, and for the length of the performance, she owns the audience, too.
She is like the men your parents warned you about – yet you still yearn to follow her down a highway lined with diners and cheap motels and into the dark laneways and dim bars of cities where sin never sleeps and trouble is just a siren away.
The cabaret-style table seating and intimacy of the Space Theatre suits this style of performance, and the only quibble was that there was no space for dancing at a show that really made you want to get to your feet. Oh, and it was all over too soon!
If you missed the show, check out Mojo Juju’s album and let her work her voodoo on you.
More Adelaide Cabaret Festival news
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Review: Variety Gala
Review: Shane Warne the Musical
Paul Capsis: A man of many colours
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