Saturday, November 4, 2023

Under the Influence with Mikelangelo


Under the Influence with Mikelangelo – Shortis & Simpson with Michael Simic at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre November 3-4, 2023.

Not reviewed by Frank McKone
November 3

Composed and Performed by
Michael Simic as guest of John Shortis and Moya Simpson
with band The Reprobates: Jon Jones, Dave O’Neill and Matt Nightingale
Directed by Tracy Bourne

This episode of Under the Influence is a community celebration of the musical lives of Shortis & Simpson, friends I have reviewed since their beginning at Bill, Pat and Tim Stevens’ Queanbeyan School of Arts Café in 1996, and Michael Simic – of Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen – from whom I learned as much as I taught him, in my 1980s drama classes at Hawker College in Canberra.

It was a pleasure to meet up with my drama teaching colleague of those years, Helen Boucher, agreeing with a laugh how dominating Michael had been then.  His performance now of his “lovingly forced intimacy and buoyant cruelty” in his song  Formidable Marinade, reminding me of his raucous days in the Famous Spiegeltent, shows he has lost none of his energy and dominant stage presence, though now spending much of his time as “a loving and present dad to my kids!” in the old gold-mining village of Majors Creek with his wife Rose and their daughter Sunny, where “he splits his time between being a husband and father, a writer and performer, and a mentor and champion of local music.”  

The show reveals unexpected linkages between the ways the three singers began as children to become musicians, with a special note on how the English young woman Moya became connected to Bulgarian language and songs in a choir; John learnt the Nikriz or Ukrainian minor scale (described in Wikipedia at length at ); while Michael’s father was a refugee from Croatia who came to Australia to work on building the hydroelectricity Snowy Mountains Scheme – with a never-ending sadness for the loss of his country and culture, but expressed in the music and dance of his son Mihael (nicknamed Miho or Mijo).

So I am far too biassed to write an analytical critical review of Under the Influence with Mikelangelo.  
For me, it was the warmth of connection with the local audience that was most important.  And my feeling at the end that I had spent two good hours completely forgetting to think about the dire circumstances of the larger world surrounding us, as Michael sang Love is All We Need in harmony with Moya and John, with us learning with John to sing along in those blue note scales, clapping to those syncopated 3-beat, 4-beat and even up to 9-beat rhythms.  

I thank them, and the excellent backing band, for a celebration of life – and maybe for the luck we have to be living in this place and time.

John Shortis, Moya Simpson, Michael Simic