If anyone out there still thinks that violins, violas, cellos and double basses of the orchestral persuasion are the province of nerds and stuffy elitists - pop along to the Brisbane Powerhouse.
Experience lush melodic electronica, vibrant color, circusry, phrase-shaping under a skipping rope and a fermenting cauldron of genre-hopping music from Radiohead, The Who, Corelli, The Flight of The Bumble Bee and tear brimming film scores with sequences of Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant splashed on screen.
Throw non-stop choreography that illuminates conversational exchanges between instuments and theatrical realizations of string technique into the mix and this stereotype is forever wiped. Enjoy the players swooping to the floor during intense vibrato, unison bows wheeling in the air like birds of prey and a brace of madcap violinists clambering up Herculean-sized ladders during wild sound building. The approach is immediate. Note bound, seated, reverent and retiring these determined, bright-eyed communicators are anything but.
Defying categorization the look juggles opposites, wholesome and sexy, conventional yet new age, classical and rock, old and new. Visually, it's a blast and the stylishly sequenced projections add depth to the tableaux. Black skirts swirl across the stage flashing purple and yellow leggings and red flowers pinned to the hair are perched off kilter like the listeners' expectations in responding to the program's freshly vamped, culturally disarming deliveries. There's nowhere to hide for either the wine sipping, beerhugging onlookers huddled around cabaret style tables, or the daring troopers on stage.
For decades, influential musicians have espoused threadbare rhetoric about eroding barriers between the audience and staged performers, composers and instrumentalists, music and dance, classical and popular music, but I've never seen an example that blitzes quite so many borders, often guarded by strict passport controls, in one show. With street performer urgency, ACDC's outrageous cheek, Gotye's seductive power, a whiff of vaudeville and the circus clown, Deep Blue's players mill around pavements to greet arriving ticket holders, flow onto the stage, spill into the foyer at interval performing tango grooves and workshop "Auroris Australis", a promising school age band from the
Queensland Academy for Creative Industries, before the show begins. The energy, pizzazz, carefully brokered informality and dare- to- enjoy- yourself attitude pays off.
Deep Blue cajole, bombard the senses, lure, tease and tug at baby boomers, generation Y and younger emotions with their revamps of popular anthems. The program, loosely built around life cycles from birth through to teenage years and beyond has purpose, Gotye's "Somebody I Used To Know" and Cat Steven's "Father & Son" are showstoppers. Proud and dedicated, this digitally flavoured ensemble's ownership of an invigorating, unique and highly accessible approach to music-making is infectious.
Beginnings of songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody" sometimes catch fire gradually rather than hum with military precision, loose threads do unravel and the use of social media to garner live feedback was clunky, rather twee on opening night. Yet, the tune-spinning fantasies and teasing volleys of iconic rock riffs coming from the unexpected voices of amplified cellos, a bizarre stilt-walking trio's moves and a violinist, like a giant fruit bat, hanging by her boots from the top rung of a ladder, pose questions and turn traditional music making inside and out. And, the impact of this surrealistic, splintered, musically cubist dream is disorienting.
Yet, is there a better advocacy of string playing or programming of the broadest most eclectic range of music than this entertaining family show that plants a smile on everyone's face? Perfectionists and traditionalists should stay away or come prepared to surrender.
Creative Media Warehouse and Brisbane Powerhouse present
Who Are You
By Deep Blue Orchestra
Venue: Brisbane Powerhouse
Dates: 10 - 14 October, 2012