Dunstan Playhouse, Thu 16 Jun
The show is called This Infernal Racket, but it was the pairing of artists rather than the music that was the greatest source of dissonance at the Dunstan Playhouse. Harry Shearer and Judith Owen explored the contrasts in their ‘power couple’ pairing, and when they were riffing back and forth between songs, their bond was apparent, but no amount of adorable husband-wife banter could soften the musical whiplash between Owen’s soulful cabaret-ready pop and Shearer’s acerbic political comedy songs.
Launching with a career-spanning video montage, the performers discussed their backgrounds a bit before segueing into Owen’s Train Out Of Hollywood. Shearer responded with Celebrity Booze Endorser, an ode to artists using their notoriety to make extra cash selling drinks.
And so it continued in a dueling song format: A toe-tapping version of Owen’s Send Me A Line from her recent Somebody’s Child album was answered by a song featuring Shearer in character as Donald Trump.
Both of these artists are gifted performers. Owen’s pop songs were touching and her flawless singing and piano work built a relaxed energy in the room each time she took the microphone.
Harry Shearer, of course, is a comedy legend; he opens his mouth and you hear Ned Flanders, and with Christopher Guest and Michael McKean he helped make This Is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind into musical comedy touchstones and masterpieces of subtlety, but the bulk of his contribution to This Infernal Racket is more in the vein of his Le Show radio work: heavily political, decidedly unsubtle, and frequently in questionable taste, particularly in the cases of slowed-down surf rocker Waterboarding USA, and the unfortunate Deaf Boys, in which Shearer inexplicably plays the part of a molesting priest for laughs.
In the end, this was a show designed more for the artists than for the audience, and it often met with polite applause, necessitating repeated attempts by Owen to engage the crowd further. As they closed with a crowd-pleasing, finger-snapping lounge version of the Spinal Tap classic Big Bottom sung by Owen with Shearer on bass, the house lights went up and the audience was left to ponder what might have been.
Harry Shearer and Judith Owen perform This Infernal Racket at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 9pm until Fri 17 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Alessia Laudoni
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