Notes From the Hard Road and BeyondLeft – Joss Stone. Cover – Mavis Staples. Photos – Sean Fennessy

It seems nothing can deter Melbournians from a night out. Not wind, not rain, not the promise of terrifying thunderstorms. At least that was the case last night at the 2011 Melbourne Festival closing performance Notes From the Hard Road.

Following on from the success of 2010’s “musical event of the year,” Seven Songs to Leave Behind, the Melbourne Festival brought together the worlds most talented singers in a collaboration of freedom. Joined by The Black Arm Band, the one night concert was once again the highlight of the Melbourne Festival as legends of music came together to lend their voices to the many who cannot speak.

From anti-war and civil rights to feminism and environmentalism, the musicians brought the message of hope and life to what could have been a dreary Melbourne evening. Featuring soul diva Mavis Staples from American gospel band The Staple Singers, Staples literally tore the house down with her booming voice that made clear why she is considered the “spiritual and musical voice of the civil rights movement.”

Joined onstage by the impossibly tiny Joss Stone, whose voice defies her stature, the two ladies of soul were an unstoppable pairing of joy and strength. Archie Roach sang a moving rendition of “Took the children away,” chronicling his own experiences as a child of the stolen generation of Aboriginal children. A retrospective look at the past obstacles humanity has faced, the first half of the concert found inspiration from music legends of the past. The songs of Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the more modern Green Day all had the opportunity to tell the story of human survival and empathy in times of distress.

The second act looked towards the future in an uplifting display of songs of inspiration. There was not a dull moment during the entire 2 & half hour long performance and the crowd (although cold and wet) remained to the very end, once again defying nature and showing the true nature of the human spirit.

Notes From the Hard Road and Beyond was a spectacular close to the 2011 Melbourne Festival, and an honest look at the strength of human nature. We are capable of great things, terrible things and truly incredible feats of mind, body and soul. We will not waste these talents, and this strength of human conviction. In a world so often full of darkness, Notes From the Hard Road and Beyond brought Melbourne a piece of light and a shining hope for the future.

2011 Melbourne Festival
Notes From the Hard Road and Beyond

Venue: Sidney Myer Music Bowl | King's Domain, 
Cnr Linlithgow and Alexandra Avenues, 
Date/Time: Sat 22 Oct at 8pm
Tickets: $25 – 120
Bookings: the Arts Centre 1300 182 183

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