[UNITED STATES ~ AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE]
Banquet Room, Sat 9 Jun.
Amber Martin hails from the same small Texas town as Janis Joplin. One might have expected some background stories about how the same landmarks and small town attitudes may have shaped their lives, but very little was made of the fact that they share a common birthplace. But it’s as good a reason as any, I guess, to bring back the sad and remarkable story of Janis Joplin to the live stage. And it was a great show.
Martin has the voice, and the balls, to go where few singers dare – to that place of total vulnerability and gut-wrenching raw emotion. But it takes a while to get there. A fairly straightforward unaccompanied rendition of Mercedes Benz kicked off the show before the band, complete with headbands and a kaftan-wearing musical director on keyboards, joined in. Like Janis’s original band, Big Brother And The Holding Company, the band were there to allow her to prowl and growl around the stage, and they played their role dutifully. But it was good to hear arrangements featuring Hammond organ, prominent driving bass lines and psychedelic lead guitar breaks that took you way back to the late sixties.
Janis died 48 years ago. To appreciate this show it helps to try and imagine the extreme impact this 24-year-old white woman had on rock music at the time as she screamed and writhed about the stage as if possessed by inner demons. Amber Martin’s Janis is a relatively mild version, until she launches into Ball And Chain. There she lets it all hang out and leaves both herself and her audience shocked by the power of the confessional performance we’ve just witnessed. It was a memorable moment.
Amber Martin has Janis’s vocal style, and many of her on stage mannerisms, totally under control. She’s a joy to watch and listen to. Musically the show is a huge success. Martin chose to include one of her own songs that she said was inspired by Joplin. Called Tell Yourself, it’s a fine song, but overall Janis: Undead felt like it was more about Amber Martin than Janis Joplin. It’s hard in these tribute type shows to get that balance right. Martin can’t be Joplin, but it felt like a golden opportunity to tell us more about the Janis Joplin back story went begging.
Amber Martin In Janis: Undead continues at Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre, at various times, until Sat 10 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Manish Gosalia Photgraphy