Adelaide Cabaret Festival – Joey Arias

Joey Arias. Photo by Heath McBride.
Joey Arias. Photo by Heath McBride.

She might look like Elvira with an undercut but close your eyes and there are times when Joey Arias will take you straight back to the smoky Jazz ‘n Blues of Billie Holiday.

Arias on Holiday is somewhat of a misnomer though. It isn’t a reading of Arias’ 1987 album of the same name, and Arias performs numbers in her natural singing voice on both original songs and covers completely unrelated to Holiday.

The show itself is part Holiday tribute, part drag show, and part seedy Lower East Side, New York nightclub act. All of it goes down well with the audience though – and would Arias run wild with a pun like that!

Sex and sexuality plays a strong role in this show. After asking, “Who’s horny tonight?” Arias slunk her way through the crowd to find ‘Trevor’ and ‘Debbie’ her ‘boyfriend’ and ‘whore’ for the night. She displayed something more than a fondness for pulling her dress up above her waist while wriggling down to the floor and opening her legs wide.

Arias performed some classic Holiday songs such as ‘Easy Living’, ‘Them There Eyes’ and ‘Summertime’, with ‘You’ve Changed’ receiving the strongest applause of the set. Oddly, Arias neglected to perform ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Lady Sings The Blues’, preferring instead a couple of original songs (big on sex) and some interesting covers to finish the show with; The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Days Night’, Madonna’s ‘Holiday’ and Cream’s ‘White Room’.

Through all the sleazy banter, the songs and the assertive sexuality, the audience lapped it up as much as Arias dished it out.

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