‘I Left My Heart In Highgate Hill’ was rockin’.
The Brisbane Festival boasts a wide variety of music, theatre, dance, and performances that are local, national, and international. This month-long festival is a massive celebration of the arts and highlights some incredible talent. It is fitting then that the music stylings of Sean Sennett, along with ten of Brisbane’s most accomplished female vocalists filled the Courier-Mail’s Spiegeltent on Saturday afternoon.
‘I Left My Heart In Highgate Hill’ is a song cycle written by Sennett and friends that is linked by local Brisbane references and universal themes of love and loss. This was a hugely popular event, with the general admission audience lined up like a snake outside well before entry commenced. Once inside, the magic of the Courier-Mail Spiegeltent welcomed patrons to the atmospheric space, with a honeycombed styled backdrop and gentle stage lights outlining the instruments and musicians preparing themselves for the show.
The 5 piece band, consisting of a drum kit, bass guitar, one electric guitar and two acoustic guitars commenced unannounced with a swing beat and pattern, when a lady entered the stage to commence reading a poem that opened with the line ‘I Left My Heart In Highgate Hill’. This simple opening led directly into the first number, titled ‘Winter in August’ – a salsa-inspired ballad performed by Charlotte Emily. How great to hear a song about winter in the middle of the year, rather than the long catalogue of white Christmas-themed songs we Queenslanders swelter through.
Sennett then stepped up to the microphone to introduce the singers and the songs with a relaxed charm. Song after song flowed, each led by the stunning vocal work of Charlotte Emily, Lucinda Shaw, Megan Cooper, Deb Suckling, Sue Ray, Roz Pappalardo, Rachael Dixon, Jackie Marshall and Laura Purnell. The singers often performed as back up vocalists for each other and the movements between numbers were fluid and appropriately filled by introductions and anecdotes from Sennett, who kept things moving easily.
The variety of the playlist was a perfect blend that was linked in styles and themes but each had their own unique flavour. Roz Pappalardo lead ‘Valentine’s Day’ that was a throwback to 90’s pop that had a Deborah Conway flavour. This was a particular show highlight, as just when you thought it was fading to an appropriate close, the band kicked in again and Pappalardo displayed her vocal prowess, riffing up a storm.
There was a Bossa Nova-styled song called ‘A Notion of Your Heart’, complete with Deb Suckling blowing bubbles during the musical interlude, and crowd favourite ‘You Broke My Heart At The Big Day Out’, which was in full-blown punk rock led energetically by Lucinda Shaw. Each song had its own character and the tone of each singer perfectly matched the style.
The band, which included Sennett on guitar, were superb. They were a well-rehearsed, tight machine that worked brilliantly together, and wonderfully supported the revolving lineup of singers. Again, the technical team at the Courier-Mail’s Spiegeltent hit all the right notes with the lighting and sound, which were in perfect balance with the energy and mood of the performances.
This performance is exactly what one should expect from the Brisbane Festival – a unique collaboration of exceptional local talent presenting original and relevant local music that was expertly and professionally showcased. If you were one of the unfortunates who missed this performance, don’t despair, you can purchase the CD. And you really should, many of the audience who had just heard the tracks did, straight after the show.