Blackbird | Katie Noonan

Blackbird: The Songs of Lennon & McCartney | Katie NoonanYou can just imagine Katie Noonan singing Because, the John Lennon and Paul McCartney ethereal aberration as mystically mellow as the gorgeous songstress herself.

Close your eyes. The Cremorne Theatre is suitably smoky. The well-dressed five-piece band is blissfully nodding to the gentle tish tish tish of the symbol. The grand piano is kindly stroked, a lone saxophone echoes a voice somehow in harmony with itself. Each note pure and sweet and a little enigmatic; they hang in the air, Noonan's eyes flit with the vibrato, and drift off to somewhere otherworldly.

"Because the wind is high, it blows my mind-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah. Because ... the wind ... is hi-i-i-i-i-i-igh. Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-Ah, love is all, love is new. Love is all, love is new..."

You can feel it, too. It's visceral, this sweet, sweet jazz. Transformational. Noonan feels it. The eyes are closed tightly; the cherub face, with the mess of red curls tied back, wears an infectious half-smile; the big voluptuous booty sways gently. "Yeah," she whispers, somewhere else, as her band of cool cats get similarly lost in the best songs ever written.

When Noonan first moved out into a chaotic share house in leafy Bardon, tuning and training an instrument now widely regarded as one of the best in the country at Brisbane's Conservatorium of Music, she discovered the vinyl Abbey Road LP (including Because) stashed in a roommate's record collection. "It changed my life irrevocably," she tells the packed theatre, on the last stop of a national promotional tour for the tribute album Blackbird: The Songs of Lennon And McCartney. (And as she tells this gushing reviewer after the first of two Brisbane shows, the album remains her favourite.)

Her love of this music, the admiration of their song-writing genius, is palpable. And the arrangements, scored by pianist Sam Keevers, are ever-faithful yet exist in a place entirely of their own.

Beatles diehards, myself included, may have been slightly nervous early. The set opens with In My Life, with Noonan scatting sweetly off the melody, followed by a Yesterday that leaves the audience searching for the celebrated tune. But listen carefully - the saxophone hums the familiar guitar riff from the former; the interpretation of the latter conveys the such-sweet-sorrow of the original lyric even more potently.

For No One grabs you with a heartbreaking tempo change in the chorus. The jazzed-up melody in Blackbird soars above the funky piano and sax toying with one of the most achingly beautiful riffs in music. And as the first act concludes with a rollicking, positively festive instrumental version of Norwegian Wood, the audience floats to intermission.

Much of the credit goes to the band, hardcore jazz musicians all and clearly as in love with the material as their vocalist. Keevers plays piano alongside Noonan's clearly smitten hubby and talented jazzer Zac Hurren on sax, Stephen Magnusson on guitar, Brett Hurst on the double bass and Simon Barker's guiding percussion.

Each is generously allowed to shine: on songs like Eleanor Rigby, an imaginative reworking that adds real urgency to a tragic story, and Fool On The Hill, with some of the best rock-out jazz you'll hear at any back-alley jazz bar.

But that voice. That supple, stunning voice... Serenely beguiling in Across The Universe; silky smooth like good chocolate with the French phrasing in Michelle; the funk and giddy fun of an I Will encore backed sparingly by the guttural rhythm of the double bass and a little audience finger-snap participation.

Snaps to you, the divine Ms Noonan. I went to this session alone, yet had more fun than I can remember. An unadulterated, joyous performance.


Katie Noonan
Blackbird: The Songs of Lennon & McCartney

Venue: QPAC | Cremorne Theatre, Brisbane
Dates: 19 - 20 December
Bookings: QTIX 136 246 or www.qtix.com.au

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