The year in concerts, shows (musicals/theatre/dance) and books!
- Sing the Truth, State Theatre (January) – Welcome 2013. Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright. Quite a triple-bill, but the surprise for me was Lizz Wright. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a voice quite like hers.
- David Byrne and St. Vincent, State Theatre (January) – I can’t believe that in my 40s, I’m seeing heroes of mine from my adolescent days. I wasn’t enamoured by St. Vincent, she was only OK, but David Byrne is a GOD. When he sang ‘Home’, ‘Road to Nowhere’ or ‘Burning Down The House’ there was nowhere else I wanted to be in the world.
- Kings of Convenience, Opera House (February) – What a surprise. I’ve never seen everyone get up and dance for so long, and the music isn’t that dancey. The singers were charming, and the goofy guy kept everyone laughing the whole time. Really original music and a great crowd. Go Norway. 12 points.
- Jens Lekman (February) – Loved.
- Tina Arena (February) – Well-loved by her audience.
- Rickie Lee Jones (March) – OHMYGOD. Review up on site.
- Eric Whitacre (March) – Beautiful choral music.
- Shawn Colvin (April) – I last saw Shawn Colvin in a big concert hall in London. Loved her, but definitely not intimate. So, to see her perform solo at the Basement, a handful of feet away, was incredible. Wonderful musician and wonderful songs. Not much banter! Really cool. And to be introduced to her opening act, Melody Cole, was great – very talented young Aussie singer-songwriter. Will be looking out for more from her.
- Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples (April) – Amazing voice and presence and songs – I’ve always liked Bonnie Raitt. It’s strangely not the kind of music that I normally click with but I’ve always been immediately drawn into her voice and vibe. And Mavis! My god! A female gospel James Brown, I didn’t really know anything about her before this concert, but she was like a primal force, the id, and rocking the stage at 73. (Bonnie at ten years younger was also an amazing sex bomb, not to take away from her amazing musical talents)
- Cassandra Wilson (June) – What I’m musing about these days is that every singer that I’ve ever really really loved seems to come through Sydney these days at one time or another. It’s such a privilege and delight to be able to hear artists live that have been a part of my life. Cassandra and her amazing voice, and great band, were marvelous. I’m going to go buy the rest of her CDs now. I’m behind!
- Kristen Chenoweth (June) – God, I loved her, really I did. She is a PERFORMER. But the baby photos were a bit much.
- Idina Menzel (June) – Between Galinda and Elphaba, I probably like Galinda better and my better half liked Elphaba. Stunning voice, and I found it very touching when she sang songs from Rent.
- Cyndi Lauper (September) – An absolutely terrible opening act that I’ve blocked from my memory and then Cyndi singing the entire album of ‘She’s So Unusual’. I forgot how weird the second half of that album is. She is fearsome, I also forgot that, and shows no sign of mellowing with age. I think I expected to be touched more by this concert, since songs like ‘Time after time’ are so important to me, but it was more spectacle. Everyone got up and danced to everything recognisable, which was fun!
- Olafur Arnald, The Basement (October) – How is his music so sad and beautiful and emotional? I started crying and wondered: is sadness Icelandic?
- Michael Jackson, The Immortal World Tour by Cirque Du Soleil – Allphones Arena (October) – Moments of beauty, joy and inspiration… and deeply weird.
- John Legend, Sydney Opera House, December. Man, the level of excited estrogen in the audience was through the roof. Enjoyed it. A bit culturally lost with some of the songs, but supremely talented.
- Torch Song Trilogy, Gaiety/Darlinghurst Theatre. The greatly talented Stephen Colyer directing, I really enjoyed this production.
- Mrs. Warren’s Profession, February, Sydney Theatre Company. We saw a preview performance. Thought the text itself was slightly old-fashioned, but I enjoyed it.
- Shen Yun Performing Arts, Capitol Theatre, February – my pal David thought that some Chinese dancing and culture would be fun. Little did we know, it was a Falungong performing troup, protesting against the Chinese government and featuring weird trippy flying people. I was kind of sympathetic to their cause beforehand (and don’t think they should be persecuted and banned) but I wasn’t quite convinced by their weird beliefs.
- Justin Vivian Bond, Carriageworks. I loved seeing him years ago as part of Kiki and Herb, and I do think Bond is a charismatic and interesting performer. But this was terrible. Bond needed a musician to back him up – his/her (there was some reference to getting rid of gendered pronouns) piano-playing (and forgetting half of his song) was cringe-inducing.
- Driving Miss Daisy, Theatre Royal – yes, Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones were great, but the script (which won a Pulitzer apparently!) seemed sketchy and dated.
- This Heaven, Belvoir. Wonderful new Australian talent with a powerful play. Nakkiah Lui is a name to watch out for.
- Carmen, Opera Australia – my god, what a beautiful setting and spectacular show.
- Dance Better At Parties, April, Sydney Theatre Company, Wharf 2 Theatre. Haven’t we watched this concept before, both in movies and in theatre?
- War Horse – Lyric Theatre. Theatrical magic…
- One Man, Two Guvnors, May. Hilarious. The lead actor was amazing.
- Anh Do – The Happiest Refugee Live! The State Theatre – As much as anything, I think he’s an interesting cultural figure in Australia today, to come from a poor refugee background and make a career in comedy out of it, at an anti-refugee time in Australia, is important. And he’s funny.
- They’re Playing My Song! Theatre Royal. God, this musical is out of date.
- The Maids, June, Sydney Theatre. Terrifying. Interesting staging and production. I’m not sure how people can share the stage with Cate Blanchett, she’s such a big presence, and Isabelle Huppert, struggling with a wordy script not in her native language was, in an unfair position here. Elizabeth Debicki was amazing though.
- Angels in America, Parts I & II, Theatre Royal. One of my favourite plays ever… and what a production. I couldn’t believe all these Aussie actors pulling off perfect American accents. So well done.
- Blue Man Group, Sydney Lyric, August. I’ve always been interested in seeing these guys. Craziness.
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Sydney Theatre, August. I studied this at 16 in college, so to see it so many years later, live, was good. If only I wasn’t so tired at the time. Amazing script, great performances and staging.
- Romeo and Juliet, Sydney Opera House. October. Amazing show, performances, and reimagining. Loved it.
- Waiting for Godot, Sydney Theatre Company, November. Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh. Great performances as expected. Since I studied it… and saw it a few years ago… seeing it again, I was thinking: nothing happens in this place. Is it necessary to see it multiple times to find that out (aside from the great performances…)?
- Vere (Faith), Sydney Opera House, November. I loved that this was an Australian play with Australian references and of-the-moment jokes, and the lead performance is touching. First half was amazing, but I thought the second half didn’t match, some of the emotional truths blunted by slapstick and the one-dimensional fundamentalist Christian characters. Too easy targets these days, I think.
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Theatre Royal. A fun musical with energetic performances. Feels like they had a bit of a hard time pulling in the crowds and I think they deserved a bigger audience.
- Atomic, a new musical, NIDA, December. Hmm. Odd subject matter, Leo Szilard, one of physicists whose work contributed to the atomic bomb. In fact, lots of good subject matter, but the play tried to cram in so much, it really lost its punch, in spite of some pretty good music, a great little orchestra and wonderful, energetic performances (the cast in general had amazing voices). Cut about a third of the play, do some rearranging and I think this musical has legs.
Somehow I stopped keeping a list last year… and am now looking through my shelves to see what I read. A mostly complete but possibly incomplete list then…
- Jonathan Franzen’s Strong Motion (Fiction) – See review on this website
- Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies (Non-Fiction)
- Berndt Sellheim’s Beyond the Frame’s Edge (Fiction) – See review on this website
- Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam (Fiction)
- George Saunders’s Tenth of December (Short Fiction)
- Shawn Colvin’s Diamond in the Rough (Autobiography)
- Tabish Khair’s The Thing About Thugs (Fiction) – See review on this website
- Eduardo Galeano’s Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone (Creative Non-Fiction) – See review on this website
- Chandler Burr’s You or Someone Like You (Fiction) – See review on this website
- Jennifer Egan’s Emerald City (Fiction)
- Benjamin Law’s Gaysia (Non-fiction)
- Bill Bryson’s Down Under (Non-fiction/travel)
- Kevin Brockmeier’s The Brief History of the Dead (fiction)
- Contemporary Asian Australian Poets, eds. Aitken, Boey & Cahill (poetry)
- Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? (Autobiography/Comic)
- Matthew Inman’s How to Tell If Your Cat if Plotting to Kill You (Humour by the Oatmeal)
- Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! (Fiction)