Friday, 19 April 2013

True To Form

I asked a few English friends if they’d like to come to a Sarah Blasko concert with me.
‘Sarah Blasko.’
‘Don’t know her. What’s she like?’
‘Um, well, she’s a bit weird.’ Not my strongest opener, but even some professional reviewers have trouble describing her music (just search “sarah blasko beyond classification”). ‘She’s great, vocally, amazing. She’s got some really powerful songs. A bit ethereal…’
‘No thanks.’

A couple of weeks later I emailed a few friends to ask if they’d like to see Paul Kelly at Cadogan Hall.
I didn’t bother answering.

So I went to see these two Australian performers and was surprised that both London concerts turned out to have an inspiring similarity.

Blasko was on stage with a support band of four, accompanied by a strings septet. Paul Kelly was accompanied by his nephew, Dan Kelly. There was a Steinway on stage that Paul used for one song, otherwise it was a set consisting of iconic storytelling from a couple of Australian men sitting on stools with guitars and a harmonica.

So the similarities are not in their musical styles or their bands, but both artists have performed sold out shows at The Sydney Opera House this year, and both of them did something last week that goes against the grain of the music industry’s current singles approach.

Halfway through her show, Blasko said, ‘and now we’re going to play you the new album, I Awake,’ and proceeded to play, in release order, the twelve songs from the album.

At what I thought was the end of the final song, I was on my feet applauding when she cried melodically, ‘Not yet, I’m not ready yet.’ When the vocals and the instruments had in fact finished, and I saw enough people out of their seats, I joined the standing ovation.

She seemed quite amazed as she smiled warmly and repeatedly thanked the audience.

Paul Kelly introduced his London show as consisting of two halves, ‘kind of like a Side A and Side B.’ His new album, Spring and Fall, is about a cycle of falling in and out of love, so should be listened to in order. ‘But it only takes 37 minutes,' he said, 'so I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to start with it.’ 
I figured that 37 minutes would equate to roughly 5,000 words. Certainly worth sharing as a story to a live audience. 

Again, the show finished with a standing ovation and a humble performer. 

In London last week spread the word launched their short fiction prize for London writers. The Guardian mentioned Tim Waterstone’s new online venture to host “short-form e-books”. On stage Sarah Blasko and Paul Kelly played whole new albums at live performances.

It felt like voices from industry, artists, and importantly markets, were showing that there is a place for the broad range of creative mediums. Like you don't have to aim for hit singles and bestsellers, '...not yet.'

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