Madeleine PeyrouxThe beautifully delicate crooning of Madeleine Peyroux, weighted with pained honesty of heart ache, loneliness and yearning, seems to be more suited to a more intimate venue rather than the vast space of the State Theatre. You almost want to snuggle in a sofa nursing a glass of red while Peyroux’s sultry lilting voice enwraps you like a warm blanket. And yet the old worldliness of the art deco trimmings and the regal air that is this rare heritage site of Sydney seems to be entirely appropriate for this young American-French singer whose influences include a list of some of music’s greats; Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Serge Gainsbourg and of course, Billie Holiday, to whom Peyroux’s voice has been likened in countless reviews.

Madeleine Peyroux has somewhat become a household name. Her album, Careless Love, which was released in 2004, after an 8 year sabbatical from her debut, Dreamland, became a firm fixture on the shelf next to Norah Jones. This wasn’t merely the jazz aficionados listening but any with an inclination to a bit of the moody blues or a walk down the lane of forgotten treasures. Peyroux’s ability to rework classics and to ‘possess them’ as she has been described as doing has been her hallmark; that, and of course, her distinctive voice which seems to have touched a chord with many from all circles and age groups.

With the timely release of Half the Perfect World last year, Peyroux devotes a considerable share of her repertoire on playing tracks from this album. She opens with the haunting Blue Alert, a song written by two of her major influences, Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas, both of whom she dedicates the album to. There is lightness to Peyroux’s voice; her ending of each consonant is a mere touch of the tongue. The articulation accentuates the disturbing nuances of the song; allusions to domestic violence and questions of who’s hurting who.

Peyroux’s subject matter is clearly important to her. There is almost a sense of an autobiographical importance as if each album marks a stage of her life. Careless Love is brimming with songs of loss and heartache, (Weary Blues, You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go) but also the fragility and idiosyncrasies of love in the title track, Careless Love, a song which is said to have originated in Irish folk. Half the Perfect World is a relatively more hopeful album and though with its fair share of pain, is more focused at finding bliss which could not be more apparent than the stunning interpretation of the title track. Swaying to the bossa nova beats, Peyroux believes what she sings; she too becomes ‘unwilled, unleashed, unbound’.

What is most exciting is the promising writing talent of Peyroux which, with producer, Larry Klein and fellow writer, Jesse Harris, is evident in Don’t Wait Too Long and A Little Bit. The latter is an interesting mix of rock and jazz with more presence of Peyroux’s guitar skills. The whole evening without a doubt was also greatly enhanced by an equally talented accompanying band most notably led by James Beard, who at times, almost stole the show with his spectacular piano solos. Also featuring was Borak Mori on double bass and Dave Beckett on drums.

Peyroux though at times physically awkward on stage still managed to command the audience with the sheer beauty of her voice and her honest charm. It was clear the choice of venue was purely down to practicality as made apparent by the packed auditorium and standing crowd at the back of the stalls. As concert goers shuffled into the balmy evening, it was clear we were all going out walking after midnight.

Venue: State Theatre | Sydney
Dates: 21 – 22 January

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