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REVIEW + PHOTOS: MACY GRAY

DON SINNAMON wishes the crowd loosened up some more at an electrifying MACY GRAY show at a certain Brisbane landmark.

QPAC, Thursday September 20

Emma Dean performing solo still fills the stage in a way that one woman seated at a piano shouldn’t be able to. It seems some mad scientist with a good ear spliced Tori Amos with Kate Bush, then sent the resulting chimera back in time to a smoke-filled 1930s cabaret to be properly seasoned. Her vocals are sharp to the point of piercing and her keys spiral wildly to and fro as she gives us a travelogue of her inner life. The keys in Sincerely Fearful race along the brink of discord describing Dean’s emotional turmoil in a way that has us all bracing for the ride, and it’s a testament to her charm that the new Last Night I Had A Thousand Dreams — a feverish pastiche of images from stress dreams is troubling without being off-putting.

With the lights down, Macy Gray‘s band troops onstage, picked out of the gloom by their neon ties. They are such a tight professional outfit working together masterfully that they occasionally outshine the headliner — whose breathy voice cast her from the start as an outsider. But the reaction as Gray takes the stage leaves no doubt as to who the audience are here to see. They gladly follow her lead as she orchestrates a sing along to I’m So Glad You’re Here and applaud each change up as she unfolds Sweet Baby into distinctly stylised chapters.

Photo: Justin Ma

QPAC is a venue better suited to rattling your jewellery than shaking your booty — like watching a widescreen film on a boxy TV: you can follow the plot, laugh at the jokes, even get carried away with the highs and lows, but something’s still not right. The audience are on their feet many times during the night, but it’s the constrained dancing of a choir held in place by pews and conventions that can’t be shifted.

Photo: Justin Ma

Gray plucks songs from her whole repertoire but the biggest reactions are to songs from her debut — the crowd eats up I Try, Why Didn’t You Call Me and Do Something. As we leave, the guy next to us says his hands are stinging because he’s never clapped so hard in his life — and again I wonder what tonight would have been like somewhere with a dancefloor.

Photo: Justin Ma

After being named Time’s Person of the Year in 2006, DON SINNAMON faded from public life, being spoken of in whispers wherever beards and dressing gowns are held in due regard.

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About DENIS SEMCHENKO

Media & comms pro who works in mysterious ways. Writer, vinyl enthusiast, sort-of cineaste, history and geopolitics nerd and (nearly) reformed muso. Has a soft spot for hyphens and slashes. Will chew off your ear about obscure music, random facts and world football.

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