Friday, 18 May 2012

Hello, Hello Bic Runga

It’s an extremely chilly Sunday evening in May.  We’re on our way to the Street Theatre, whose home is the ever-changing streetscape of Childers Street, Civic.   Bic Runga is on her Hello, Hello tour and Canberra is her final stop. 

Looking in to the theatre’s foyer from the brisk evening outside, it looks lovely, welcoming and homely. With a glass of warming red wine in hand, we wait for the concert to start.  The foyer fills up with jacketed, gloved, mittened, scarved , beanie-d people, some are turned away from the ticket booth as the concert has sold out.

The support act is Ollie Brown.  A 6’ 6” 20 something from Newcastle, he’s currently got an EP out, been touring and recording in the US, supporting acts like Bic Runga and Michael Buble, he has a penchant for self promotion and the streak of a joker.  He’s engaging, talented and youthful.  The set is fun, albeit a little clumsy, but good enough that at the end of the evening we buy a $15 EP.  Highlights from his set include Don't Change a Thing his only love song, which he hates to sing because it forces him to think about her, the bitch:

By they way – you can follow Ollie on Facebook, Myspace, YouTube and Twitter.  Sorry I couldn’t help myself, he said it so many times it really did drill into my brain.  Now that’s a good marketing strategy.

After a short intermission the crowd returns to the theatre.  Bic arrives on stage and she trots out three of her older tunes including Drive.  It seems almost workmanlike, and while it feels slightly mechanical they are still good, strong, live versions. There’s something simple about the performance of those initial songs, though, just Bic, an electric guitar, her soulful lyrics and her unique phrasing.

She’s touring to promote her new album Belle, so she has to sing a few songs from it.  I’ll admit to not owning nor having listened to the album, so I cannot offer any views on whether the performed versions were any better or worse than the studio recordings. 

The first one she performs is the title track, Belle, which is a cover of the theme song to the 1960s French television show Belle and Sebastian. It’s beautiful.  Her voice is so unique, wild like an unwieldy bird needing to be tamed.  But she is able to control it, manage it and bring it to new heights.  She oscillates easily between low and high register, a technique that keeps you alert and at the edge of your seat.

As a whole the concert isn't too new album heavy, she weaves in songs from her previous three albums: Drive, Beautiful Collision and Birds.  Serenading the crowd with favourites like Bursting Through, Beautiful Collision and Sway.

This makes it possible to see how her most recent offering differs from her last.  Still lyrically beautiful, the sound is different – more mainstream, in some instances almost poppy.

By the end of the performance you can start hearing the toll that a six week international tour has done to her, there’s a slight rasp, an unusual grittiness, but it adds another dimension to her already distinctive voice.

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