Monday, 20 July 2009

WeekendNotes - Eskimo Joe

Despite being one of Australia's most popular bands, Eskimo Joe will only be on the road for one tour of its native country this year. So take the chance to catch the three-piece perform songs from its latest album Inshalla while you can, as it stops in Melbourne this August for a couple of gigs.

Eskimo Joe as a live act isn't about visuals or high concepts - the show is very much about the music. The three-piece make an effort in terms of outfits - they dress up rather than down - but vocalist and bassist Kav Temperley, drummer and guitarist Joel Quartermain and guitarist Stuart MacLeod let the tunes run the show, keeping their casual interactions with the audience to a minimum.

But their songs don't need such support. Recent hits like Sarah, New York (see the excellent video here) and Black Fingernails Red Wine get the crowd singing along with ease, and current single Foreign Land (rumoured to be written about fellow Perth boy Heath Ledger) is a classic-in-waiting. With over a decade's worth of playing together as a band under their belts, Eskimo Joe is a tight-sounding band that are hard to knock.

They formed in 1997, despite each of them being involved with other bands at the time. Their break came when they won the Australian National Campus Band Competition, part of the prize being a recording session, which resulted in the Sweater EP. The title track went on to make Triple J's Hottest 100 that year.

In 2001 they released their debut album Girl, which featured in the hit TV series The Secret Life Of Us and propelled them to fame. Second album A Song Is A City saw more chart success and ARIA awards, but it was their third album Black Fingernails, Red Wine that scored them their first No 1, and their first Top 10 single.

New album Inshalla has been garnering their best reviews yet, with critics saying the band has finally found its groove and is now doing what it does best. Decide for yourself by checking them out live at one of their shows.

Make your way to the Palace Theatre website for info on tickets and dates (click on "August").

Why? They're one of Australia's best bands.

WHEN: August 6 & 7, 2009
WHERE: Palace Theatre, Melbourne
COST: $55
MAP: click here

Thursday, 9 July 2009

WeekendNotes - The Impro Cave

Rather than have a quiet night in front of the TV this Sunday, have a quiet night in front of the stage instead.

In the newly refurbished and rebranded bar Penny Black (formerly the oddly-monikered Don't Tell Tom) on Sydney Road, theatre company Impro Melbourne host an enjoyable evening of improvised comedy which they've dubbed The Impro Cave.

Instead of the more formal setting of a theatre, the Penny Black provides a more relaxed vibe for Impro Melbourne's performances. You can either sit at the tables in front of the stage and enjoy dinner before the show, or perch yourself on one of the chairs or sofas dotted around the venue. Get there in good time though - there's a danger you could be watching the show from behind a pillar.

Cosy and warm, and with food and drink being served until late, it's as comfortable as being at home. And on stage there's some ad-free entertainment that has the added bonus of no-one - not even the performers - knowing what's going to happen next.

Each week the actors - a talented mix of both professionals and hobbyists who have worked together for some years - use different formats to spin tales and create characters that take form before the audience's eyes. The sense of danger is palpable, and yet they somehow manage to pull it off with apparent ease and plenty of laughs.

One format at a recent show was a kind of Director Idol in which each actor would direct the others in a scene and then the audience would decide which story they wanted to see continued. One story was even a musical, with the actors making up songs on the spot.

Another format was a courtroom scene with the actors playing the judge and lawyers as well as the protagonists in the case. It adds to the tension knowing that not even the actors know how they're going to wrap things up.

Throughout July as well you can see a bunch of more inexperienced Impro Melbourne actors have a crack at off-the-cuff performance in a show called Sideshow Spontanial that starts a little earlier than the main event at 6pm.

But it's Impro Cave itself that is the draw here - relaxed and funny, this is affordable and enjoyable entertainment.

Why? It's the excitement of the unknown.

WHEN: 7.30pm on Sunday nights until August 30th.
WHERE: The Penny Black (formerly Don't Tell Tom), 420 Sydney Road, Brunswick
COST: $15.00 full, $10 concession (and groups 10 ), $5 entry to Sideshow Spontanial in July
MAP: click here

Monday, 6 July 2009

WeekendNotes - French & Saunders

Having entertained the masses with their renowned sense of humour for some 30 years, irrepressible British duo Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders are finally calling it on a day on their career as comedy sketch performers. They say they're getting too old for it now and want to hand the baton to the likes of Catherine Tate and the Little Britain guys.

"I think sketches are a young person’s game, really," explains Dawn French. "Jennifer and I want to keep on working together but not necessarily doing a sketch show, so we thought it was best to officially finish it."

So French & Saunders are bowing out in style with a farewell tour called Still Alive, which is also unfortunately only their first here in Australia. It's a greatest hits show which includes the first sketch they ever wrote together and the sketch that went on to inspire Saunders' hit sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. French's solo success Rev Geraldine Granger from the Vicar Of Dibley also makes an appearance.

The classic white room in which the two comedians play exaggerated versions of themselves features in the show and leads into some of their classic film and music parodies. But there's plenty of new stuff mixed in with the old and you get to see French and Saunders flex their acting and comedic muscles playing a variety of characters from teenagers discussing sex to grannies zipping around on scooters.

It's a fitting farewell ending a working partnership that has endured for a comparitively long time in the world of comedy. It nearly never happened - Saunders famously didn't like French when they first met at drama school. But they went on to live and work together, performing for the first time at a strip club in London's Soho.

Ten years later they had been given a sketch show on the BBC and their fame and success was assured. It ran until 2005 and a year later they announced their 'split'.

While we've not seen the last of them on screen - they still plan to work together on material more "appropriate" for their age - this is a last chance to see a pair of comedy greats doing what made them so well loved.

Why? It's the last chance to see the duo perform together on stage.

WHEN: July 15-20, 2009
WHERE: Palais Theatre and Palace Theatre, Melbourne.
COST: $99.90 - $159.90
MAP: click here