Did you know that the seats in the Optus Playhouse rock? I don’t mean they ROCK, I mean they literally sway back and forth with the slightest movement from anyone sitting in them.
I discovered this last night as the 40 people in my row, (and the people in the row in front of me, the row behind, let’s just say the entire audience), jiggled their knees, tossed their heads and swung their shoulders to Ross Wilson’s cabaret show No Smoke, Just Mirrors.
Wilson wants to take us on a little trip. A trip through his well-known and obviously much-loved music. And he knows exactly what we want to hear.
Over the course of 90 minutes, the Australian singer-songwriter introduces us to his high-school band The Pink Finks (who re-recorded “Louie Louie” in 1965 and found success in the charts) and to his “angry young man” phase in the late 60’s with the band Party Machine, where he learned that it was “good to be bad and be banned” with songs like “I don't believe all your kids should be virgins.”
And, of course, he knows we want the big hits from his days as the front man of Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock. He gives us “a good singalong” with the Daddy Cool’s “Come Back Again”, “Eagle Rock” and “Daddy Cool” (which the band played as a cover and took on as their theme song).
He sends a little thrill of danger and seduction down our spines with Mondo Rock’s “Come Said the Boy” and a re-invigorated version of “A Touch of Paradise” (which he admits was a flop when his band released it but found new life when John Farnham did it on his album Whispering Jack). There was even a lounge-style version of “Ego is not a Dirty Word” in memory of his friend and the front man of Skyhooks, Shirley Strachan. He’s also quick to remind us that he produced the first three Skyhook’s albums (“the ones with all the hits”, he says).
Then, he throws in some of his latest songs, including “Love’s Journey” and “I Come in Peace” (the album, out next month, will also be called “I Come in Peace” and he’s heading out on the I Come in Peace tour later on this year. He’s got a theme and he’s sticking to it).
He performs in front of a huge screen that flashes with images of his albums and with photos of him at every age and in all his bands. And between songs, he just talks to us: about his life, his friends, his music. It’s delivered in a casual, self-deprecating style that is wholly Australian, warm and very charming. It’s like sitting down with him in his living room as he pulls well-worn albums and photographs out of big box and dusts them off for our enjoyment.
No Smoke, Just Mirrors is a relaxed and intimate look at “the many sides of Ross Wilson”. If you love or loved any of his music, you’ll be rocking in your seat at this show.
Brisbane Cabaret Festival
No Smoke Just Mirrors
Venue: Playhouse, QPAC, South Bank, Brisbane
Date: 23 Jun 2010