They Say She's Different
The Space. Adelaide Festival Centre. June 19-20 2014
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
|Cecilia Low in They Say She's Different|
Cecilia Low sure is one helluva wild one. Her channeling of 70’s funk rock fusion queen, Betty Davis is high octane power fuelled by Low in the role of Davis and her fantastic band and vocal backing singer who take on the roles of contemporaries like Jimi Hendrix, Devon Wilson and partner Miles Davis. On stage and film, They Say She’s Different takes us back to the explosive era of sex, drugs and rock and roll. The world was changing through the liberated Sixties when Davis was emerging on the scene with her unique brand of soul and forging a new music of raw, edgy, electric-wired soul. Musical director Tony Kopa winds up the audience, Oh yeah!!~, while the ear-splitting, chest rasping and mind blowing chords of the electric guitars rip and tear through the Festival Centre’s Space Theatre.
Low takes the stage with the inner power jet force of defiant attitude. In her tight black leather shorts, knee-length black leather boots and pink puffed furry jacket, which she later discards for a slink black slip she is Betty Davis. Her body slides with erotic obsession and her voice purrs, growls and roars from a throat born to scream her independence to the world through her bluesy, funky music. Apart from the lyrics, projected upon the screen with re-enactments of Betty’s life, the lyrics of her bluesy funk become an ear-splitting sea of sounds. It is unfortunate that Davis’s lyrics should be lost to those less familiar with her songs. The show swells to the Space as though it were in a stadium, and while I am swept away by the sheer power of Davis’s music and story, I give way willingly to the bombardment of attitude.
They Say She’s Different traces Davis’s journey from the mid Sixties when she met the Chamber Brothers at the Electric Circus night club and presented her song Uptown in Harlem to them. “She just wouldn’t shut up”. It’s 1966 and the age is ready for Davis’s unique fusion of blues and soul. Throughout the one hour show, Low intersperses Davis’s classic songs, such as Your man, My Man, Your Mamma Wants You Back, and songs from her Anti Love compilation with accounts of the people in her life, such as close friend, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Reed, Muddy waters, B.B. King, Mohammed Ali and her partner Miles Davis, whom she introduced to Hendrix and revived his flagging career.
The pain, anguish and struggle of her life and the troubled, turbulent lives of her contemporaries are captured in atmospheric black and white on the screen behind the band. Here is the harsh truth of life in the heady world of her contemporaries. “it was not all glamour” Davis tells us. “It was hard work. It was emotional pain until you don’t know who you are.” The show is a lament for lost lives, dreams and fractured relationships. Betty Davis, the girl from North Carolina, who would never apologize, and paved the way for Prince, Madonna and the musicians of funk fusion, also gave the world the power to be yourself, stand tall and bear to be different.
In a show that is loud, brash, raw and powered with jet-force attitude, Low’s Davis is mesmerizing, seductive and unapologetic. Kopa’s incitement to bring the audience to their feet needed little urging. They were the possessed, transported back in time to an era when freedom moved the spirit and Betty Davis showed the way.