Space Theatre, Sat Jun 14
Subtitled A Collaboration of Poetry & Music this show is largely a concert performance of songs from The Baker Suite’s two excellent albums A Quartet For Car Horns And Brakes and Your Dreaming Self, plus a number of new songs, some written especially for this show.
I’m not sure that the concept of ‘second nature’ is fully realised, but that does not detract from the enjoyment of the songs presented. The Baker Suite songs are pretty much a collaboration of poetry and music anyway. Songwriter John Baker’s lyrics are full of poetic imagery, and he is an accomplished storyteller. With his Samoan family background Baker has been gifted a legacy of interesting characters and stories to draw from when piecing together his songs; although tonight they hold back from telling too many of these stories, the often repeated story of his aunt Annie’s brush with the law when introducing The Fugitive Kind is too good to resist.
The Baker Suite often play as a duo consisting of guitarist and singer John Baker and accordion player and vocalist Gayle Buckby, but tonight the sound is fleshed out by the addition of a trio of excellent musicians featuring Lyndon Gray on double bass, Enrico Mick Morena on drums and Julian Ferraretto on saw (!), violin and mandolin. Baker’s guitar playing is intricate and mesmerising while Buckby’s accordion lines are simple but dramatically effective. Some fine solos from Gray and Ferraretto enhance the songs sympathetically and make for a very tasty hour of music.
In keeping with the general theme the new songs are almost all collaborations with other writers and musicians, ranging from Shakespeare to Paul Grabowsky. It is a measure of Baker’s talent that, for some of these collaborations, he has written the words, such as the closing credit theme for the movie of Patrick White’s The Eye Of The Storm – co-written with Grabowsky, while for others including Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 2 he added the music. A particular delight was a nostalgic piece entitled Gone Are The Days, set to the poetry of Kerrie Bonney.
The ‘risky’ part of the performance is having encouraged the audience to supply an impromptu poem for John to put to music. If the end result is by definition not the most polished song in the set, it does show considerable promise, and demonstrates how quickly John can apply his art to pull a song together.
The Baker Suite music is well-suited to the intimate nature of cabaret where the audience is able to listen to the words and appreciate the musical offerings. And the audience do appreciate what is on offer, calling them back to perform the whimsical Word Salad Sandwich. A feast of poetry and music indeed!
by Adrian Miller