SD has spent part of the past week in the company (well, along with a few hundred others) of two artists who have overcome serious setbacks in their lives to continue with their careers. Both of them were performing at Sydney Festival and, while entirely different in style, had in common a strong spirit and beguiling stage presence. The first was California-based singer-songwriter John Murry, whose debut album from last year,
considered a triumph by critics across the globe, documents in part the artist’s battle with heroin, one that almost cost him his life as well as his marriage. Mississippi-born and raised Murry wears his turbulent history (he has been clean for five years) on his sleeve, but while the subject matter of his songs was often bleak his performance was starkly beautiful. Hopefully he will return here with a band at some point to give a fuller reading of his material. The other performer was Glasgow’s veteran pop craftsman Edwyn Collins, he of 80s outfit Orange Juice and of a handful of solo albums and the hit single
Collins suffered two strokes that, as with Murry, almost cost him his life several years ago. He had to learn to talk again and also had to re-learn his vast catalogue of material before returning to performing 18 months ago. One could not help but be moved as the singer, clearly still suffering physical limitations after his illness, ploughed through Orange Juice favourites such as and
and the best of his solo material, more than ably assisted by James Walbourne (guitar, vocals) and Carwyn Ellis (guitar, keyboards, vocals) from London Mississippi, one of the British bands Collins has produced at his London studio. While Collins’s vocals weren’t always up to the mark, his courage, cheery countenance and great tunes earned him a worthy standing ovation. The Sydney Festival ends tomorrow. STILL in Sydney, SD has seen a lot of great shows at Sydney Entertainment Centre over the years. It is an iconic venue that has played host to the biggest stars, from David Bowie to Pink, during its 31 years as part of the national touring circuit. One has always felt, however, that the name of the venue was a little lacking, too practical perhaps, too obvious, to fully embrace and convey the significance of the great performances that have graced and will continue to grace its hallowed stage. What joy filled the SD office this week, then, to discover that the venue must no longer hide its enchanting light under a bushel due to the perfunctory nature of its nomenclature. No longer must one’s excitement at the prospect of seeing one’s heroes at this Haymarket haven of rock, pop and basketball be tempered by the unedifying nature of its title. Henceforth, Sydney citizens, let us step forth one and all and glory in the inspired and inspirational rechristening of one of the nation’s most welcoming gigs, the Qantas Credit Union Arena. I don’t know about you, but I reckon I’m going to get a little teary at the very mention of it from now on. IF you’re in Melbourne tomorrow it would be worth checking out the announcement of the Australian Music Prize shortlist. A free concert featuring Hermitude, Beaches, Dialectrix, Kirin J. Callinan and Jen Cloher will be part of the program at Sidney Myer Music Bowl (6pm8pm), hosted by Ella Hooper and Tim (Urthboy) Levinson. The longlist of 43 will be whittled down to nine, with the winner of the $30,000 prize to be announced in Sydney on March 5.