Review by Matthew Hocter
I honestly can’t remember how or where I first heard of Carla Lippis. I do remember that there had been talk of this powerhouse singer from Adelaide that was doing great things overseas, but that also could have been my vivid imagination running wild, something it tends to do often and regularly. What I do know though is that back in 2012 Carla Lippis released a self-titled EP with her then group the Martial Hearts. Steeped in a country vibe, the EP is still one of my favourites to this very day.
Fast forward some nine or so years and Lippis is yet again headlining a number of shows at the Adelaide Fringe. The shows at The Queens theatre in Adelaide’s West End are different though. This is all new, all original material for the singer and something she was keen to deliver in her own unique way. As the diminutive in stature Lippis takes to the stage, her presence and vocals are the polar opposite to anything diminutive, in fact it is these very two qualities that make her grander than most. Taking over the stage with the opening number, a meaty banger titled “Wolf it Down,” Lippis and her band set the tone for what was to come.
As Lippis moved into the night’s second song “The Hard Way,” it was abundantly clear that her ability to belt was not only powerful, but also conveyed an emotive quality that can sometimes get lost in singers as they soar the heights of their vocal gamut. A bit of banter ensued with some hilarious personal comparisons (The Joe Pesci of Cabaret and the Bogan Liza Minnelli) which gave way to a beautiful song done in Lippis’s ancestral language of Italian, “Una Danza.”
Lippis is a rarity in an ever growing world of replicas. Her dark, moody flavour was backed up by her band, as they moved effortlessly from rock to alt country and cabaret. Embodying the earthiness and fantasy of a Fellini film, Lippis’s presence on stage is unmistakeably right. She blends an ability to hold her audience captivated with her sharp self-deprecating humour whilst diving into music that mesmerises every sensory point available. She is both heaven and hell, wrapped into one rock goddess that at any given moment channels the likes of Janis Joplin, but then just easily drops her guard to be as vulnerable as a nymph lost in some magical forest. One thing that Lippis isn’t afraid to do is bust the shackles off of what is considered the norm, in fact normal seems like the farthest thing from the singer’s creative space.
Indulged in a total of nine songs throughout the evening, it was perhaps the last couple of songs of the night, covers of “Gloomy Sunday” (Hungarian Suicide Song) and Henry Rollins “Liar” that allowed Lippis to delve deep into the darkness that gives way for her beautiful interpretations of classics rarely touched. There most definitely is light in the darkness and Lippis taps into that like no other. Definitely one of Australia’s, if not the world’s, most underrated performers, Carla Lippis and her divine musicality won’t be going unnoticed for much longer, this I am sure of.