An art deco dance hall, red wine, hot chips and music by The Beatles performed by three uber-delightful cabaret performers: it doesn’t get much better. And I finally got to some of Melbourne’s Cabaret Festival.
Melissa Langton, Libby O’Donovan and Mark Jones are three of Australia’s favourites with a diversity of experience between them that ranges from innumerable sold-out shows to music theatre stages and composing and musical direction. They’re pretty cool.
Melbourne only got one chance to see the show they’ve been touring around they country: Everybody’s got something to hide (except for me and my monkey): The Lennon & McCartney Songbook.
And got to see it in the divine deco Ormond Hall with its iron lace balcony railing, gold and lush brown velvet curtains and a mood that makes it feel like it’s 1946 and we’re about to start booming some babies. Shame that it’s not used for more shows, but there are still Cabaret Festival shows there all weekend.
Their show’s all music by The Beatles, so it’s pretty hard to go wrong and there’s no one in the audience who doesn’t know every song they perform and every song in the huge (and read by Libby) list of missed ones. Although in a remote town they upset a local who stormed out declaring “this isn’t rock and roll!”. It’s not. It’s a cabaret-style medley of the songs arranged in unexpected, witty and just-plain-gorgeous ways – and a yodelling version of ‘Ob la di, Ob la da’.
All of which is still a bit odd for music that was pure anti-establishment rebellion from young men in their 20s. Their 20s! John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote music that’s still loved, covered and worshipped 50-odd years later when they in their 20s! (And I look forward to the Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails cabaret lounge shows.)
There was a year in the 70s when ABBA were the most popular thing in Australia. I was 8–9 and nothing could convince me that they weren’t the best band in the history of all bands and of all future bands. And given my record collection consisted of some stories on tape, Mark Holden, ONJ and some nursery rhymes, who could dare argue with me. So my father gave me his double cassettes (in a cardboard box case) of the Blue and Red albums (I wasn’t allowed to touch the records). I listened to these tapes endlessly and changed my mind about ABBA. My father didn’t give me much, but he gave me The Beatles and that’s pretty cool.
What’s missing from Everybody’s got something to hide is personal connections to the music and the band. The closest it gets is Mark saying that they wrote great music, but none tell us why they love this music, why they chose the songs, who their favourite Beatle is (better than any psyc test for explaining personality: I’m John) or why they’ve loved taking this show and this music to venues all over Australia – and do they care that it’s not rock and roll. The show’s as adorable as a labradoodle and a kitten snoozing in the sun, but there’s an empty space begging for their stories about The Beatles; otherwise – for all its musical prowess – it’s kind of reducing this music to the lounge music that it was never written to be.