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Review: PAROV STELAR BAND at The Workshop, Adelaide Festival Centre

Review By Lisa Lanzi

After quite a wait (technical hitches maybe?) and the queue flowing back some distance we were ushered into The Workshop to bathe in the sonic grooves of The Parov Stelar Band at their one sold out Adelaide Festival performance - the final in their very long tour. The group appeared at WOMADelaide a few years ago and it seemed many fans were back for another injection of this infectious sound.

Austrian Marcus Füreder, called the founder of ‘Electro Swing’ by some, first appeared as a DJ at nightclubs during the mid-late 1990s and Parov Stelar is his stage band incarnation with a world-wide following. Electro swing, or swing house music, is a genre combining the influence of vintage or modern swing and jazz mixed with house, hip hop, and electronic dance music and the best of the interpreters create a dance-floor sound that retains the excitement of live brass and vintage sounds while being readily accessible to the contemporary listeners. So, nostalgic meets futuristic and there is much divided opinion: one music journalist calls it ‘the worst genre of music in the world’ while Urban Dictionary calls it ‘basically everything you need’. In addition to working with Lana Del Rey, Bryan Ferry, and Lady Gaga, Parov Stelar has won 8 Amadeus Austrian Music Awards and their music has been used in film, commercial television and advertising, so perhaps Urban Dictionary got it right! They have also played at Coachella (US) in 2016 and are in demand, touring worldwide and always filling the room.

At this Festival late night gig there was the usual seamless blend of live music and recorded samples and tracks, huge energy, astonishing musicians and vocalists and much dancing from the very enthusiastic crowd, including a few stellar celebrities. There is always magic when live music is enhanced by the inclusion of remarkable artists and Parov Stelar are no exception. Füreder has gathered a group of very fine musicians to deliver his vision and the result is superb. The newest addition to the group is vocalist Elena Karafizi from Chișinău in Moldova who replaces the health-challenged Cleo Panther, the band’s long-time vocal collaborator. Karafizi is a powerhouse singer and mover with growly, sensuous alto sound yet still in command of some soaring top notes. Los Angeles-based Lee Anduze also took on some songs with an ultra-cool persona and his smoky soul tones. Both singers ooze charisma, working the crowd to perfection in their solos and duets.

The band also starred Sebastian Grimus on saxophone, Marc Osterer on trumpet, Jacky Mayr on trombone, Michael Wittner on bass and guitar and Willie Larsson Jr. on drums. The brass section were not only sensational musicians but they had polished some fun, very slick choreography to the delight of everyone - simply great showmanship. The union of live and recorded / sampled music was a revelation, so much better to my ears live than on their recordings, and the mixing was impeccable with Marcus Füreder on the deck. Drummer Larsson Jr. delivered a standout solo which had me wondering if the drum kit would survive the onslaught and Osterer let fly with some of the longest sustained trumpet notes I have ever experienced. Seeing and hearing the whole brass section together, you could be transported back to a sultry jazz club in New York’s Lower East Side with a few martinis to tide you over.

This Festival has certainly thrown out some challenging work to provoke deep thought and many discussion points so it was grand to be immersed in a straightforward, excellent musical experience and dance the night away with like-minded souls. There were so many good songs in the show it is difficult to single out one but ‘Clap Your Hands’ certainly set the crowd off as did ‘Booty Swing’ and their encore! Let’s hope Parov Stelar make it back to Adelaide soon.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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