Festival Theatre, Sat 10 Jun.
The 2023 Adelaide Cabaret Festival brings Adelaide’s turn to hear Kate Ceberano’s latest album My Life Is A Symphony, a selection of her favourite tracks from her 30 album career re-recorded with lush orchestral arrangements, and fulfilling a lifelong dream of performing with an orchestra. With musical director Roscoe James Irwin of Cat Empire fame and accompanied by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, four female backing singers and a rock trio – drummer, guitarist and bass player – she is out to wow us all. Wearing a shimmering black dress Ceberano crosses confidently to centre stage and opens with a joyful lush version of Pash. The stage is set for a fine night.
What follows is not a set of greatest hits but a careful selection of songs that tell stories – sometimes uplifting and funky, sometimes soulful, reflective and atmospheric. And Kate takes time to tell the story behind each selection.
The orchestra led by Victoria Scamell add glorious lushness, sublime flourishes and a depth which marvelously enhances the songs. The horn and brass lines are especially wonderful, but given Roscoe is a jazz trumpet player maybe this is no great surprise. The floaty jazz sensibility of Earth And Sky and Cherry Blossom Lipstick are standouts. Jess Fairlie’s harmonies on this song add to the dreamscape feel. The almost bossa nova undertone in Sunburn is a change of pace and keeps the momentum going.
The second half begins with Brave, which earns animated applause, as do the two songs Everything’s Alright/I Don’t Know How To Love Him from her time as Mary Magdelene in Jesus Christ Superstar. (Her anecdote around turning 25 in Adelaide while performing in the musical with John Farnham are fun too).
Other highlights tonight are Time To Think written with Chas Jankel from the Pash album, and Champion from Kensall Road. Both songs that tell a story and hit the heart strings. At times I felt undertones of Joni Mitchell’s phrasing, not an artist I had previously associated with Kate Ceberano,
Tonight’s concert is a tribute to outstanding musicianship from the orchestra, the band, and Ceberano. Special mention needs to be made of Kathleen Halloran’s guitar playing, with solos that subtly cut through the orchestration but never detract from it.
Kate Ceberano released an album of covers in 2021 called Sweet Inspiration, and two tracks from this album complete the night. Elbow’s Mirrorball (AKA Mirror Ball) is an inspired choice – the song is a perfect fit for her – and Leonard Cohen’s If It Be Your Will. These songs remind us that Kate Ceberano is not just a great performer of her own songs but a wonderful interpreter of other songwriters also. After such a strong finish she is of course called back for an encore.
The audience leaves smiling, talking with animation about how wonderful Ceberano’s voice is, what were their personal highlights and who could ask for better than that.