[WORLD PREMIERE ~ ADELAIDE EXCLUSIVE ~ AUS ~ IF YOU LOVE… MUSIC THAT MOVES YOU]
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, Fri 14 Jun.
“My name is Dami Im, and I’m here to tell you my version of my story.” With those words, national treasure, Eurovision near-winner and actual X-Factor winner Dami Im set about taking the Dunstan Playhouse audience on a journey, starting with her arrival in Australia at age nine, through her youth as a piano prodigy, her pursuit of a singing career, her experience of reality television, her star turn on the world stage, and finally, to her life now as a successful recording and performing artist in her own right.
Of course, with each story came a song. Leading off with Mariah Carey’s Hero, Im recalled the song she chose to audition for X-Factor, and noted how the demands of reality television can result in the creation of a persona that may not fully reflect the individual. As the evening progressed, she worked to fill in the broad strokes that served as her introduction to the Australian public, while still honouring and delivering some of the more noteworthy performances that served as turning points, including Dolly Parton’s Jolene, which led to her brief elimination from the competition, and Prince’s Purple Rain, the show-stopper that turned the tide in her favour, and was still just as powerful, a highlight that got perhaps the biggest cheers of the night.
She explained that winning X-Factor led to a difficult transitional period, during which conflicting conceptions of her public image, questions about repertoire and singles, and relentless travel for public events threatened to overwhelm her. However, eventually she emerged with her hit single Super Love, and soon after followed with the story of representing Australia at Eurovision, a point of pride both for her and the audience. Performing her Eurovision entry Sound Of Silence alone at the piano, she once again held the room in the palm of her hand.
Throughout the show, Dami Im’s desire to be understood shone through in her storytelling, and she ultimately arrived at a persona and image that she felt reflected her true self, along with a focus on her own songwriting, showcased in her performances of recent tracks Dreamer and Crying Underwater, before closing with a performance of her hit, Gladiator.
However, the ratio of storytelling to singing seemed out of balance, such that seemingly more time was spent speaking than performing music. This was underscored by the fact that the show was advertised at 70 minutes, but ran far in excess of 90 minutes, after which the house lights immediately dismissed the possibility of an encore. Other questionable choices, such as the decision to introduce her band members by first name only, added to the sense that the show could use some polish.
The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is loaded with tightly-crafted performances, and these sorts of unattended details stand out as a result. Perhaps a conceptual collaborator could help to build a show that really plays to Dami Im’s strengths, because for those fleeting moments when she was playing piano and singing, it was truly spectacular.