Artspace, Thu Jun 19
For much of his life Rod Davies has been a piano man. Among the stories he tells of his journey through music was a live show called The Piano Men. The classic Billy Joel ballad featured large, and his vocal rendition of this famous tune was in my opinion better than the original. Another of his heroes I’m pleased to say was Elton John – hence the title of this show. It was great to see Elton’s musical canon given the credit it deserves. Davies’ version of Tiny Dancer was just beautiful.
Davies has an extraordinary voice, and his life as a singer/musician began at a young age. He was separated at age 10 from the rest of his classmates in a corner of the classroom because he couldn’t stop singing! So the signs were there early that he would be a musician, but he credits Billy Joel as the influence that led to him forging a career in music.
Rocket Man is a totally engaging trip through the life of a gifted musician. A very personal story details how he discovered the music of the ‘70s against all odds, and includes a sad episode when he dumped all his lovingly collected LPs in the bin because of the satanic messages contained in some of this music when played backwards! A consequent detour into God Rock resulted before he returned to the idolatry of pub rock. Enter Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh!
Anyone who came of age in the ‘70s is going to love this show. We all have our personal favourites that formed who we are, but one can’t argue with the passion and execution of the songs Davies has selected that marked his musical development. You may not have been a fan of Freddy Mercury, but it just so happens that Freddy is high on Davies’ list of heroes, and being reminded of Freddy’s outrageous stage presence seemed appropriate for a cabaret festival. Then there was Rolf Harris. But enough said about Rolf for now.
An outstanding aspect of the show was the near perfect synergy between Davies and guitarist Stuart ‘Chet’ Fraser. I know from experience how hard it can be to blend guitar and piano to produce a sound that is balanced and complementary, but years of working together on a national TV show has resulted in this now well seasoned partnership. It’s a delight to watch, and even better to listen to.
I loved this show. There were several times when I had to fight back tears as I was spun “back down the years to the days of my youth” (Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull). But it wasn’t just the emotion of being transported back to the ‘70s – it was the pure beauty of a voice from a man who can really sing. Really sing. That may sound trite, but the tenor, the pitch and the emotion was so often perfect. So, yes, he’s a piano man and a wonderful singer. Go!
by Michael Coghlan
Rod Davies performs Rocket Man at Artspace, Adelaide Festival Centre, until Sat Jun 21.