MICK HARVEY – Intoxicated Man

RCC Fringe  ELDER HALL – 14th March 8pm

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Review By Gary Clarke                                                                                                          3 STARS

The mood was high as the virtually sell out crowd streamed into the illustrious surrounds of The Elder Hall.   Despite being kept waiting in a huge line up outside until almost half an hour after the scheduled start the audience was buzzing in expectation.  As a mix of Mick Harvey fans and Serge Gainsbourg buffs we were ready for a treat.  Having iconic Australian  music legend Mick Harvey with an enormously talented troupe of fine musicians and singers in tow was enticing enough.   Having them perform “Intoxicated Man”, the most recent contribution to Mick’s wonderful series of works centred around  Gainsbourg and his music had me considering what superlatives I might pen in my pending review of the show here.

An entourage of six men in black  took up their positions on stage with Mick Harvey at the mike. He briefly mumbled a few barely coherent words and they launched into a number.  The bass notes seemed heavy and the mid-range was swamped.   At first I thought maybe it was just a teething problem as it must be a nightmare trying to mix in such an unusual venue not designed for highly amplified rock/pop,  perhaps?   I had only seen/heard classical and acoustic music in Elder Hall previously.   Initially I had moved up to the balcony to get front centre and the best view.  Maybe that was the problem?   After about six or seven songs I moved downstairs. It was a lot better but still strangely muddy and there was a persistent loud buzzing from the Bass amp.  This continued throughout the entire performance despite a tech desperately trying to fix it much to the chagrin of Harvey.

I quizzed my companion who had seen The Tiger Lillies perform there a few nights earlier and she said even though they were similarly amplified it was crisp and clear.    I ducked out in to the foyer and chatted with a couple there who confirmed my experience.   Several other folks later concurred .

I really was not enjoying the experience.   I have highly tuned hearing devices (my bionic ears) that bring my hearing to the equivalent of 20/20 vision.   I even tried removing the devices.  It was marginally better but the muddiness and lack of coherence remained.  Damn, what a pity!   I knew quite a few of the songs and the renditions musically and creatively seemed great. “Hearing” Harvey and his troupe performing his English translations of Gainsbourg songs live should have been a delight!  It was just that it was like they were playing inside a huge invisible fluffy pillow.    Most of the audience clearly still enjoyed themselves and were enthusiastically applauding and at times singing along.   I guess they were determined to get their $59 worth!

As I said, the performances seemed to be going well in themselves apart for some minor communication pips.  The six men in black were joined by six women also predominantly in black and the musical interplay was tight and professional  They were punching out some great Gainsbourg classics and some creatively reworked numbers.  I racked my brains trying to figure how to write this review but I couldn’t find an excuse for the audiological inconsistencies.  I wanted to be generous because I could tell that the performances were actually very good.   In the end I can only give it three stars.   I would love to see the whole thing again under better conditions.   Fortunately this review was for a one off performance at Adelaide Fringe 2019 so it will not affect the ticket sales.   As for me I am going home to listen to my recordings of Harvey doing Gainsbourg and my old Serge Gainsbourg CDs and downloads.

Review By GARY CLARKE    for Kryztoff RAW                                             3  STARS 





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