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Arts, Cabaret, Live review, Music, Performance arts, Review

REVIEW: Silver Sircus

Silver Sircus (album launch) + Michael Ross + Kristy Apps & The Shotgun Shirleys

Old Museum, Saturday October 13

Kristy Apps & The Shotgun Shirleys are gorgeousness, with the band weaving a beautiful tapestry of guitars, mandolin and fiddle beneath Apps’ immense voice. Traipsing between foot-stomping, but not-quite-hoe-down numbers and heartfelt balladry, the quartet keep a beat well for an outfit with no percussion. The insistent rhythm of Apps’ acoustic guitar combines with the bass to keep things moving. A polite, mature audience sits and claps in the hushed candlelit darkness of Old Museum’s Studio 3; the night starts well. 

Adelaide’s Michael Ross opens his first Queensland show in over a year with a tribute to the presumably unrelated Diana Ross, a soulful take on The Supremes’ classic You Can’t Hurry Love. “Love don’t come easy,” he laughs, “…but maybe it should?” Alone on stage with an electric piano, a mohawk and a bottle of Rekorderlig, Michael is a natural music-hall entertainer — Tom Lehrer minus cheese. He leads us with an easy smile through his catalogue and personal stories, with songs about love and queerness (the official song of equal marriage in South Australia, Equal Love, has the pearler “LGBTI-to-eye“): a theme for a boxing show (“This was recorded as a mix of rock and Aussie hip hop. Let’s see how it goes on piano.”); a sweet song written for his best friend’s 30th birthday that has us clapping as if we even knew her. He ends the set with the devastating Skyward Shuttle, the culmination of 18 months of internal struggle as a celibate Muslim homosexual, sung with the richest falsetto and tears — a killer closer if ever there was a desire to leave the audience needing more.

Silver Sircus — photo by What the Butler Saw

Silver Sircus play their debut album To The Place That Is Home in full tonight, with anywhere up to 12 people on stage including a guest percussionist and a four-piece choir. Things start gently on piano and strings with the instrumental Home, although the performance is slightly marred by some issues with the violin. The rest of the regular band join on stage for the luscious trip-hop cabaret of their single Come Back As You, as vocalist Lucinda Shaw expands on themes of death and rebirth, seeds and new life throughout the album’s songs (these are reprised in full force in I Am Going To Find You), cutting an earth-mother figure although stopping slightly short of expounding an all-loving auras-and-all spirituality. Album centrepiece Flesh Of My Flesh sees the band enjoined with choir for “a classic gospel one-four-five ending”, with the audience singalong for the jubilant outro.

The pizzicato strings and laconic trip-hop drums of What Is A Witch? (“This is what happened to us in the middle ages,” Shaw offers) are interrupted by a song for the witch hunt, starring Shaw as the howling, charring effigy cowering and screeching from the microphone, surrounded by her band of pursuers as they play on relentlessly — it’s an earnest yet heavy-handed drama scene. The album swims to a close via near-instrumental Hold Them Close Mamma, themes tied together in Treat Yourself Gently and a full band fortissimo with choir and wailing Shaw inTrails. A brief break ensues for encore; Shaw and primary songwriter/drummer James Lees return to the stage to thank the audience, producer Magoo (a popular Brisbane choice, it seems) and guests. The night is closed with an unrecorded original — described by the band as “Bollywood meets flamenco”, not inaccurately — and a note-perfect full band cover of David Bowie’s Rock & Roll Suicide, which may just be the highlight of the night and one of the best Bowie covers this reviewer has ever seen. Wonderful.

BRADY CLARKE is a Brisbane-based bebearded bassist, raconteur, absurdist and decanter of yarns, clearly competent at compiling clever linguistic abstractions resplendent in knowledge and ephemera.

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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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