25 October 2010

Review: Seven Songs to Leave Behind

MIAF 2010
Seven Songs to Leave Behind
Melbourne International Arts Festival
23 October 2010
Sidney Myer Music Bowl

I've been to my share of festival closings, but MIAF have set a new benchmark with Seven Songs to Leave Behind. What a concept and what a night!

Each artist was invited to think about what what songs they want to leave behind and offered the song that made them go "this is what I am", one they wish they'd written, one from Leonard Cohen (it saved them trying to pick which one his they could fit into another category), a song to share, two of their own and one to leave behind. And they had Orchestra Victoria, the Black Arm Band and their fellow artists waiting to join them.

The unforgettable velvety roughness of Gurrumul Yunupingu opened a night of joy and unexpected treats where everyone on the stage was as thrilled to be part of it as the audience were to be there, and  this festival finally felt like it was made to be shared and enjoyed.

Coveted songs brought surprises like Sinead O'Connor screaming L7's "Shit List", Leah Flanagan, Ursula Yovich and the Black Arm Band pouring their hearts into Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble" and  Ricky Lee Jones (in an Orchestra Victoria beanie) belting out Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise".

Other unforgettable moments include Ricky Lee singing "Somewhere" (from West Side Story) with the recorded voice of Archie Roach, who couldn't be there because he's in hospital, the amazing Lou Bennet singing with her "niece" Sinead, Shellie Morris's "Swept Away", every moment of Meshell Ndegeocello and John Cale closing the night with Cohen's "Halleluja" – with everyone joining in.

And I only went so I could see John Cale, who continues to redefine cool.

Seven Songs to Leave Behind is one of those concerts that will stay with everyone who was there. It was a night where art overthrew entertainment, where collaboration created moments that will never be repeated and 8500 people stood and cheered because they knew that they were part of something amazing.

This review appears on AussieThearte.com

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