Zoe KeatingLeft – Zoe Keating. Photo – Lane Hartwell

You can read elsewhere on this website about how Canadian cellist (now based in San Francisco) Zoe Keating sometimes has trouble convincing promoters that she can pull the crowds, with the result that she is often booked to play smaller venues, which sell out. Not happy with fans missing out, she often then plays back-to-back shows with an hour's break in between. This is exactly what transpired at The Toff In Town last Wednesday night.

An hour before Zoe was due to take to the stage, it was standing room only with those in the know arriving earlier to grab the seated tables of this comfortably intimate venue. Being a Toff newbie, I have learned my lesson – although propping up the bar at the back was in no way a bad way to pass the evening.

For those not in the know regarding Zoe Keating, she plays the cello, that most wonderfully haunting yet emotionally versatile of instruments, and she plays it with a wonderful versatility. She sits between the old and the new, linking her gorgeous old cello with shiny new technology in the form of a looping sampler (or is that a sample looper?). A section of a track is played and recorded, then another which she plays along to live and records that. Some percussion by way of her hand beating gently on the dark wood of the instrument adds another layer, and so the texture builds until close your eyes and you'd swear it is many you are listening to and not just one artist and her cello.

Well known for her DIY approach to making and distributing her music, her 2010 release Into The Trees has sold around 50,000 copies without the help of big recording labels and is still going strong. And no wonder. It's a collection of her own works so perfectly showcasing the universal appeal of the cello, as well as her individual exploration of its possibilities.

Tracks such as The Escape Artist (this would have been the one I had guessed as being the one she composed for her then unborn son Alex), The Optimist (the one she actually composed for her then unborn son Alex), Don't Worry and the rest from the album are all very familiar to me now, and it was a little bit wonderful to see them all performed live by an artist who so clearly enjoys making these haunting, melancholic and uplifting sounds from this strangely-shaped box of wood and bow of fibres.

And if you've picked up that this reviewer is not going into precise track-listing of titles performed on the night, that's because I very quickly forgot to take notes. Zoe Keating walks on stage with her casual conversation with the audience, her newest rad hair do and her sometimes funky, sometimes classically funky clothes, and her cello, and you just kind of get drawn into Celloworld, and it's a pretty magical place to visit.

So. Sorry about that. Sorry about forgetting to take notes. Like the rest of the audience, I was too distracted by the music Zoe Keating was making right there in front of us to bother with the real world. I would go to Zoe's Celloworld again tomorrow night, if she wasn't already heading to another lucky audience in another part of the world.

Zoe Keating

Venue: The Toff in Town | Lvl 2, Curtin House, 252 Swanston St, Melbourne
Date: Wed 30 May, 2012
Tickets: $20.00
Bookings: 1300 438 849

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