Review By Matthew Hocter
Seeing Kate Ceberano live is not only a lesson in music, but also how humility, kindness and a genuine love for what you do, are the main ingredients for longevity in an industry that can be incredibly unkind to those that have stood the test of time. It is those very qualities that have allowed artists like Ceberano to not only weather the unforeseen storm that battered the world, but also give space for reflection, allowing this artist to create some of her most poignant work in years.
Walking into The Spiegeltent at the Garden of Unearthly delights is like walking into a scene from Moulin Rouge, circus like with a magically intimate setting which worked perfectly for Ceberano, who was joined onstage by the legendary guitarist Ben Butler (Sting, Joss Stone, George Michael).
Opening the show with the title track and namesake off her recent smash hit, Sweet Inspiration, Ceberano and her guitar maestro set the tone for what was to be a scaled back, intimate evening of music without all the fanfare, something only a true singer and musician could pull off and they did.
Moving through tracks like “Hold On” and a beautiful cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” from Sweet Inspiration, it was the ones that weren’t on the album that really left the audience speechless. “Songbird” famously sung by the late Eva Cassidy, was interpreted in a way that had my eyes welling up with tears and moving straight into Roberta Flacks “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” saw those tears gently move down my cheeks. As I scanned the room, I could see that the emotion I was feeling was one that was shared with so many others. That’s the thing about Ceberano and her voice, the depth and emotion she exudes is something that simply can’t be bought, nor can it really be explained. It’s a feeling and one that needs to be respected when in its presence.
About five or so songs in, Ceberano invited Jo Lawry on stage, a backing vocalist that has been working for the likes of Sting and jazz pianist Fred Hersch, as well as a starring role in the Oscar winning documentary “20 Feet from Stardom” which chronicles the lives and importance background singers have played through the ages. Together the singers played around with a couple of songs, culminating in a gorgeous rendition of Sting’s “Roxanne.”
Always one to indulge her diehard fans, Ceberano allowed a brief walk down memory lane with classics like “Bedroom Eyes” and “Pash.” But this show was about intimacy and reconnecting with her audience, something that has been elusive, if in fact at all over this last year. Given that Sweet Inspiration is home to some of the greatest songs ever written, Ceberano and Butler ensured that the interpretations were on a level that even the songs “owners” would be in awe of.
Closing the show with an encore of Nina Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares Me” and Leonard Cohens “Let It Be Your Will,” Ceberano’s artistry is the stuff of legend. Managing to interpret everything from Nina Simone to Sting and everything in between is no mean feat. A feat that Ceberano and Butler weaved in out of with an ease that is not only magical, but in many ways surreal. Australian music is world class and this show, like many things we do needs far more recognition, something that this last year has again afforded us.
Kate Ceberano yet again has provided the Sweet Inspiration that this world has so desperately yearned for and shown why she is one of Australia’s most formidable performers, allowing her to relish in the long overdue and well deserved title that is legendary.