Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Madeleine Peyroux.  

 Canberra Theatre Centre and The Music House. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. June 12th. 2018


Reviewed by Peter Wilkins.

Madeleine Peyroux. Photo by Shervin Lainez

A rapturous round of applause greeted American jazz singer and guitarist as she made her smiling entrance ono the Playhouse stage. It was obvious that many in the audience were devoted followers of her songs and music. I did not know of Peyroux and my love of cabaret drew me to her one night stand in Canberra during a very busy and hectic tour. She had arrived after performances at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and was bound for Sydney’s Vivid Festival. A glance at her itinerary and I was astounded to see that her concerts would take her from the United States to Australia and Spain over the next few months.

Seated at a microphone at the front of the stage, Peyroux opened with an entrancing French  song of amour, which soared through the air on a silken voice from lover’s walks along the Seine to the smoky rooms of the French cabaret of Montmartre. Captivating in its allure, I am instantly transported to the city of love. Her band enters, a motley crew, brilliant musicians, cool, relaxed, the wizards of jazz and masters of the improvised art of jazz.  There is no programme, nor any indication of how long Aaron on guitar, Graham on drums, Paul on bass or Andy on keyboard have been together, but their synchronicity is seamless, their sound the unique rhythm of the soul.

Madeleine Peyroux. Photo; Shervin Lainez
In a repertoire of covers and her own songs , sweeping us along through Peyroux’s journey from her birthplace in the South to her life in Brooklyn and her teenage years in Paris, from gospel to soul and the earnest wisdom and haunting poetry of Leonard Cohen , we are seduced by the talent of a thoroughly original chanteuse.  Her rendition of Cohen’s Dance Me To The End Of Love, could have had me dancing with her voice to the end of all time. Lessons in love, its pain and its joy can be found in her renditions of Careless Love. “And now for something cheerful” she says as she introduces her version of legendary Blues singer,Billie Holiday’s Getting Some Fun Out of Life. Irony wraps itself around the lyrics of songs that are anthems to life’s longings and bitter woes.

Throughout the evening. Peyroux plays the seductive sorceress of song, harking to the legacy of greats like Eartha Kitt and Lena Horne, Billie Holiday and Leonard Cohen and an original of our time, Madeleine Peyroux. Sitting simply before ger audience and surrounded by her attuned and equally seductive band members, Peyroux offers an unforgettable evening of love and life. Her politics are well known in her admission that she peed with fear when Trump on the Presidency and defeated her favoured candidate Bernie Sanders. She dedicates a song to the Me Too movement and her forthcoming album, Anthem, is dedicated to the memory of her inspirational song writing mentor, Leonard Cohen.

The applause at the end of the concert erupts spontaneously, luring Peyroux and her band members back onto the stage for their encore. “I suppose it is expected”, Peyroux says with her smiling wry humour. It may be tradition in the world of cabaret, but there is no obligation on Peyroux’s part. She is a generous artist with affection for her audience, and closes the uninterrupted evening of sheer enjoyment with her own La Javanaise from The Shape of Water. It is the cherry on the top of a night’s first class evening of song and music from one of the best. The standing ovation lasted long after Peyroux and her band had left the stage. I, for one, will be among the first to buy Anthem” when it is released in August.

QPAC                                                    Thursday 7th June
Adelaide Cabaret Festival             Friday 8th & Saturday 9th June
                Melbourne Jazz                                Sunday 10th June
                Canberra Theatre Centre             Tuesday 12th June
Vivid Jazz                                             Wednesday 13th June