Nathan Cavaleri’s Adelaide Fringe audience was eagerly waiting to hear the first notes out of his black Gibson, with the Sydney musician touring his first solo release, titled Demons, in more than 25 years since he was signed to Michael Jackson’s label MJJ Records in 1994.
Cavaleri first shot to stardom in the 1990s before he was even a teenager, all while being treated for leukemia. At the age of 13, he toured the US with BB King and appeared on television in Australia and the US shredding guitar with a mastery that was well beyond his years.
For his Adelaide Fringe show, the 38-year-old was joined by good mate Kenny Jewell on rhythm guitar and backing vocals.
Jewell took to the stage first, playing a melodic intro as Cavaleri entered to applause to join the song. However, there was nothing – the amp had malfunctioned despite working perfectly fine in soundcheck, leaving him to banter with the audience while Jewell fixed some backline gremlins.
Showing his genial yet confident attitude, Cavaleri joked that just before he boarded his plane to Adelaide, his father asked why he didn’t travel with a back-up amplifier. Enjoying the back-and-forth with the crowd, he showed no signs of the battle with mental health that saw him experience intense panic attacks simply at the thought of taking the stage – a personal battle that forced the Australian musician once described by BB King as “the future of the blues” out of performing.
Once the amp was fixed, he launched into some rocking blues tracks on his black hollow-body Gibson, in duo with Jewell, with the pair having a great time on stage trading riffs and licks.
Full of Cavaleri’s seemingly effortless and passionate blues soloing, highlight tracks were “Boho Limousine”, “Demons” and a cover of Cold Chisel’s “Rising Sun” that the performer made his own.
He shared insights into his journey to get back to the stage after falling completely out of love with performing. It was Jewell who helped him re-kindle his passion for music, and particularly the blues, when he invited him to play a regular night at a local pub in Sydney.
The duo launched into a slick BB King cover, after which Cavaleri spoke about how he absorbed so much from simply being around the blues legend on tour – something that is evident in his playing, with Cavaleri’s style peppered with some of BB’s signature phrasing.
A highlight song of the night was “Before You Check Out”, which Cavaleri wrote after his late cousin lost his own battle with mental health.
Cavaleri is still a young man who has been through so much life experience, and although he’s possessed world-class chops since he was in primary school, his performance now carries an incredible maturity and emotional substance – a joy to experience live.
Nathan Cavaleri performed in the Garden of Unearthly Delights for one night only.
Read more Adelaide Fringe reviews and previews here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.