Tina Harrod spills restless energy from the moment her high heels step on stage. At first the audience feels like a stranger and she fears us, but she relaxes into her music and song by song she lets us in, taking control as she becomes surer in her voice and persona. She is deeply sensual, comfortable in her body. We see this in the way she sways her hips with the passions of the songs, asks for a reason to love, a reason to be a woman.
Nina Simone fans recognise several songs, including Break down and let it all out and I loves you Porgy. She sings Nina Simone wonderfully, but something shifts when she performs her own songs, and now she isn’t just singing a great song, she’s telling you a story of a woman, of a love, and of heartbreak sharp and true. Her pithy lines and the lack of cliché in her lyrics are refreshing. Lines like “I’m buried underneath this relationship like treasure buried at the bottom of the sea” remain in my head long after the show finishes, to be carried into the night as a memory of her honesty and strength of expression.
As the bass twangs and the piano gently glides through And time stood still, from her new album, there is a feeling of being frozen in a moment. You wholly believe her heart has been torn, that she has loved and still loves, and she will “rise above everything and live again.”
Her vulnerability is striking. You expect such a beautiful and talented woman to be totally confident, powerful, but she has no pretence to this.
Her incredible trio support her with a sombreness that hides occasional bursts of fun. Matt McMahon hunches over his keys, absorbed in them. His solos are seamless, his approach serious, creating a mellow undertone to Tina’s energy. Hamish Stuart on drums is a relaxed presence who shows a joy of his instrument which is delightful to watch.
Jonathan Zwartz plays double bass and is to thank for aiding Tina in writing, recording and producing the new album. He wears a wrinkled shirt, his curly hair is a little long and messy, and his whole body moves with the bass, face contorting as he dives into his lines. Together, the band has a vibe of solidarity and strength which perfectly complements Tina.
The two one hour sets show their extensive talent, but the second hour becomes emotionally draining. Tina draws in the hearts of her audience with her truth, sparking personal memories and musings as her stories of love flow through each other, and our image of this woman strengthens, becoming raw. In Tina Harrod’s music, you see a beautiful woman exposed.
Underneath Your Spell
Venue: Bennett’s Lane | 25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne
Dates: Fri 26 - Sat 27 Feb, 2010
Tickets: $30 or $25 concession