CABARET: Freedman Does Nilsson – Dunstan Playhouse – 4.5K

adelaide-cabaret-festival-760Harry Nilsson is responsible for many well-known songs, whether performed by himself or famous acts like The Monkeys (Cuddly Toy) or Three Dog Night (One). He did not tour his music, but rather focussed on writing and producing albums. In this show, Tim Freedman (of The Whitlams fame) creates his idea of what a performance from Nilsson might have been like, had such a thing occurred.

Opening with the hit Everybody’s Talkin’, the show takes on a relaxed, friendly feel, with a trace of melancholia. The next hour includes a good deal of reminiscence, a hint of smut and an interesting mix of songs that you’ve probably heard a lot, though not necessarily known they were by Nilsson, which are now presented with some backstory, giving them a new dimension. These stories are delivered by Freedman in a gruff, American twang, coupled with his exquisite singing voice, which flows through your bones like a fine whiskey.

IMG_0552Freedman has set his fictional concert in the early nineties, when Nilsson was 50, and just a couple of years away from death; a fact which the character is keenly aware of and makes reference to throughout, revelling in the memories of the excesses enjoyed during his life. As a performer used to presenting his own material, Freedman is believable as the reclusive, talented singer-songwriter, telling the tales behind the songs with authenticity. While the impersonation of Nilsson doesn’t really carry through to the vocals, Freedman’s distinctive voice is honed and powerful, meeting all the requirements of the songs, and his performance is thoroughly enjoyable. The closing rendition of Without You is breathtakingly executed with passion and strength.

For those familiar with Freedman’s own back catalogue, it’s not difficult to see the parallels between his writing and that of Nilsson. This will be a particularly enjoyable show for the fans of each artist, though knowledge of either is unlikely to be required for it to be rewarding. Those that are not acquainted with the musical talents of one or the other may also find that it introduces them to a new favourite artist.

Kryztoff Rating: 4.5K

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