She walked on stage and filled The Studio with light, not just her conspicuous presence but her dazzling, sparkling, spectacular fireworks dress. Long, strong legs, sagging breasts, an eruption of what should be greying hair, diamante tears and a set of eyes that have seen the world. Kiki is one formidable, volatile and gracious hostess. She is in Sydney with her accompanist and eternal friend, Herb, to take you on their journey across time and seemingly endless controversy. Simply staged; grand piano stage right, bar table and stool stage left, both topped with ample booze to satisfy Kiki and Herb at least until intermission… for this is ‘The Year of Magical Drinking Tour’.
Kiki’s voice has been described as a ‘mixture of Tom Waits and Ethel Merman, with a little of Judy Garland in her last days’ but sitting, watching her through smiling cheek-bones she doesn’t sound like anyone else to me. Throughout her cabaret routine Kiki performed a great range of songs, both covers and original numbers, but each is done with her own signature style wherein she made each her own.
And then there is Herb, who placidly paddles away at his piano like a happy puppy, barking and howling to accompany his mistress. Kiki was without a doubt the star of the show, I doubt she would have it any other way, but Herb was the perfect complement to her larger than life style. When I managed to tear my gaze away from the diva, there was Herb just doing his thing in his own ineffable way. A maestro of the piano and accomplished singer Herb delivered a magnificent performance, but if you weren’t looking you wouldn’t notice as Kiki is pretty stiff competition.
My favourite part of the show however was the narrative that tied the songs together. Kiki rambles on about history and religion, politics, prejudice, current affairs and culture. She is both provocative and controversial, I think just about everyone will find some aspect of the show offensive. The night I was present we had a pretty liberal crowd, by liberal I’m referring to the true meaning of the word as apposed to conservative political parties, and there were certain comments in regards to dead children left in suit cases that I don’t think sat too well with just about anyone in the crowd. To Kiki’s credit she picked the show straight back up and returned to her repartee as if nothing had happened.
In a world that’s really too politically correct Kiki puts her hand down her pants and throws her faeces in your face. You will have to excuse the metaphor as in reality Kiki is nowhere near so crude, but in her politeness and grace she is very confrontational and questioning of the status quo. ‘The Year of Magical Drinking Tour’ is great fun, inspired music and plenty of food for thought. Kiki and Herb are the creation of Justin Bond (Kiki) and Kenny Mellman (Herb), who have been performing the two idiosyncratic characters for nearly a decade touring the world over, now’s a great opportunity to catch them locally.
Kiki & Herb: The Year of Magical Drinking Tour
Venue: Sydney Opera House, The Studio
Dates: Fri 26 Oct – Sun 10 Nov