As anyone who purchased George’s phenomenal 2002 album Polyserena can attest that fronting singer Katie Noonan’s debut was an exciting time for the Australian music scene. Likening Noonan’s voice to “warm honey decanted into melting snow,” it might seem that one particular reviewer had taken his devotion too far, were it not for the fact that the superlatives are so well-deserved.
Noonan has come a long way since Polyserena, forging a career as a solo artist as well as continuing to contribute to band George (joint project between herself and brother Tyrone) and fronting Katie Noonan and The Captains. Talent clearly runs in the family: Noonan’s mother is a well-known opera singer and her influences are apparent in her daughter’s unique style, which incorporates a range of other genres without ever straying too far from her operatic roots.
In keeping with the show’s name, Noonan and her accompanist (the wonderfully talented classical guitarist Karin Schaupp – a virtuoso in her own rights) performed a range of iconic, and some lesser-known, Aussie/NZ songs from bands such as Crowded House and Cold Chisel, to songs by solo artists Nick Cave and Bic Runga. Noonan also performed the title track off 2010s Emperor’s Box, a song she wrote and dedicated to her father, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease.
The real crowd-pleaser, though, was her cover of Gotye’s 2006 hit, “Hearts a Mess.” At the start I had questioned how faithfully Noonan would be able to stick to the original, given its rich, atmospheric backing vocals, and was pleased to see students from Trinity College being ushered in and providing a much needed backdrop to the soaring solos.
There’s an easy grace about Noonan; her banter never feels forced, and, as always, she is happy to stay and chat with people after the show. The cathedral-like acoustics of Winthrop Hall and the venue's relative intimacy allows for the purity and simplicity of Noonan’s vocals to be fully appreciated. It was also a fitting setting for Noonan’s last song – the ethereal, supplicatory “Bless this House” which Noonan sent out to the family and loved ones of Jill Meagher.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better way to spend a Friday night.
Katie Noonan and Karin Schaupp present
Songs of the Southern Skies
Date: Friday 28th September
Venue: Winthrop Hall, Perth, WA
Bookings: (08) 9484 1133
Date: Saturday 29th September
Venue: Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, Mandurah, WA
Bookings: (08) 9550 3900