What an extraordinary combination. Blues “harp” (harmonica) with stand-up comedy. The latter probably better defined as friendly conversation and quite a few “shaggy dog” stories.
The engaging, baby-faced young Michael Connell entered the stage of the upstairs room of the Northbridge pub, The Brass Monkey, to a disappointing audience of 27. Did it faze him? It appeared not. He treated us as comfortable new friends and opened up with a charming ramble about his love of the blues. He then moved onto his initial disappointment, after endless hints for a guitar, at being presented with a harmonica for his 13th birthday and thence his developing love of the instrument.
He proceeded to tickle our funny bones with some hilarious skits, which included “The Day After The Rock Concert”... a deafened monotone, high-pitched hearing aid-like whistle.
This was followed by a brilliant harmonica impression of a regular train engine followed by the single whoosh of an express. It sounds corny but you had to be there.
Connell took us through a quick riff of what was usually expected of harmonica players universally, for example “On Top Of Old Smokey” and “Oh My Darling Clementine” (“What did you expect - rock and roll?”). We were then whisked to themes of the Star Wars title track and snatches of Lady Gaga and Salt’ N’ Pepa.
After an amiable ramble at his deep disappointment at not being born black, he moved to some reminisces of joining a Melbourne Blues Club accompanied by appropriate Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson numbers. The audience was amusingly led into various tales about his terrifying musical open stage nights, soggy stand-up auditions and the seduction mode of the harmonica ...“useless”.
It is amazing how much a clever solo performer can gently ease into an hour. Connell touched on Australian Idol, rampant bush pig hunters, Black Death, selling one’s soul to the Devil and a wonderful pastiche of country heartbreakers ... “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry”.
Mention must be made of his extravagantly side-burned guest artist John Robertson, who joined Connell for a brief but funny, speedily-paced number while feverishly working his miniature amplified Polynesian ukelele!
Michael Connell appears a charming, indeed endearing ingénue. His relaxed and confident low-key manner was a relief to the meagre audience and his obvious musical talent and charm will, I predict take him far in his future stage career.
part of the Wild West Comedy Festival
Venue: Festival Club | Upstairs at the Brass Monkey, Cnr James & Williams St Northbridge
Dates/Times: 7:00pm May 20th – 23rd (Preview May 20th)
Tickets: $18 & $15 concession
Bookings: bocsticketing.com.au | 9484 1133 | at the door