Easy listening romantic love songs by masters Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Irvin Berlin and Antonio Carlos Jobim amongst other, are just right when getting into the spirit of Valentine’s Day this year and Diana Krall’s three-night gig at Hamer Hall with her own jazz trio and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra will definitely get you in the mood.
Last night’s performance was full of energy and humour, and subtle interpretations of songs from Krall’s albums with a few surprises in the mix. Jazz quartet renditions and orchestral arrangements kept the set list wide-ranging in sonority and musical approach. There was no set list for the audience though; instead, they were encouraged to purchase an expensive glossy program displaying sexy fashion photos of Krall and an interview with her by none other than Elton John where she spills out her creative credo, musical influences and her humble approach to life and music making.
There were no orchestral sforzandos and crescendos. Conductor Alan Broadbent kept the larger than expected 42-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra submitted to luscious warmth of soft sustained string, woodwind and brass strokes that underscored some of the songs. There were many magical moments when the orchestra met Krall’s soft piano touch.
The concert was a visual spectacle with the attractive Krall in a short hot pink and fuschia sequin dress, heels, great legs and blond hair matched by lighting in warm colours and delicate light effects. The audience in the packed Melbourne Hamer Hall was expectant, grooving along and full of applause. People gradually relaxed to respond to Krall’s music as well as to her peculiar sense of humour and shy manner of speaking to them.
Krall is by no means a vocal or a jazz piano virtuoso. Her low voice has a limited range and agility. She was not able to match technically the improvisations of electric guitarist Anthony Wilson on her piano. Nonetheless, her singing and playing have a unique story-telling quality that renders famous songs into fresh and personal stories. Her smoky voice is attractive and sexy, and her diction is understated yet clear. She controls her rich tone and rhythm with perfection and creates an honesty of delivery that is very captivating and addictive. Her interpretations are heart-felt and unassuming. They do strike a chord with the crowds all over the world to which Krall’s three Grammys, eight-time JUNOs, ten studio albums and 15 million album sales attest.
With B reserve seats starting at $99.90 this Australian tour is a serious commercial undertaking. This commercial approach spoiled for me the program and the way it was presented. The repertoire steered between jazz and popular but never explored one and the other fully. The audience was sitting in darkness as if attending an elite classical concert which this was not.
Unlike European audiences, Australian audiences are not chained to tradition and are open to novelty. This gives artists freedom to experiment, knowing that Australian audiences are more open-minded and sympathetic. The crowd would have been much more included and engaged if the auditorium was at least half lit. Then Krall would have not felt awkward for having to speak to the darkness and there would have been more interaction in the spirit of both jazz and popular music performance. Krall’s repertoire could have concentrated on the popular idiom she works with to present a thorough exploration of it and she could have ventured away from the safety of her piano to sing a few songs standing to engage the audience directly.
Yet, one could say that this mixture between popular and jazz as well as Krall’s shyness constitute the originality of her style. What is more, for one hour and thirty minutes non-stop easy listening music, mass audiences may find this performance good value for money.
Live Nation presents presents
with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Conductor Alan Broadbent
Venue: Hamer Hall | Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: 10 – 12 February 2014
Tickets: $159.90 – $99.90
Leewin Estate, Margaret River WA – Feb 15 & 16, 2014
Written by Daniela Kaleva, University of South Australia