Tom Burlinson has found a formula that works. First there was the critically acclaimed Frank – A Life in Song, and now audiences at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival are tapping their toes to his new show, Now We’re Swinging.
His current show, a thorough examination of swing music through the ages, examines the musical lives of popular exponents of the form. While the popularity of swing music has waxed and waned over time, there always seems to be an artist reviving and revitalising classic numbers from the Great American Songbook. Think Harry Connick Jr., Robbie Williams and most recently (and successfully) Michael Bublé.
It is clear that what excites Tom Burlinson most however, is the originals (and the best!). Burlinson truly shines when stepping into the shoes of Ol’ Blue Eyes. His previous show has clearly prepared him to serenade audiences with the smooth tones and perfect phrasing required for ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ – close your eyes and you’ll just hear Sinatra!
His performance of numbers by Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett are of a similarly high vocal quality and, backed by an exceptionally tight eight-piece band led by Ralph Pyn on trumpet, there really is very little to complain about musically.
The patter, on the other hand, sounded overly rehearsed. While always interesting and informative, and providing clever links between musical numbers, it was not until late in the show that Burlinson’s delivery relaxed, and it was at this point that the audience was finally able to warm.
The Dunstan Playhouse is a great venue that lends itself to high quality sound and lighting, but the nature of the music in Now We’re Swinging cries out for a piano bar setting – tables and mood light and wine. These additions would have helped to create a perfect environment and ambience for an already high quality performance.
There is no musical weakness in Tom Burlinson’s Now We’re Swinging. All of the songs are classics and are welcome in any swing tribute. It’s a pleasure to sit back, close your eyes, and be transported through the musical history of swing. This show is suitable for all ages, but is likely to be appreciated most by those with a love of swing.