American Idiot The Musical @ QPAC Review

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Some of my fondest and most vivid memories are those of singing along to American Idiot in the backseat of mum’s car alongside my brother, back when the song was first released in 2004. Now 13 years on, that song, and the 12 others of Green Day’s highly-esteemed ‘American Idiot’ are still some of the most influential and well-recognised pop-punk tracks of all time. More recently, however, the award-winning record was adapted for the theatre by Green Day frontman Billy Joe Armstrong himself, and was elaborated into a powerful production which resultantly featured heavily on both West End and Broadway, season after season.

Now for the first time on Australian shores, the theatre adaptation opened at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre to a mixed crowd. An array of musical lovers and pop-punk diehards collided, with a clash of Dr. Martens and eyeliner among the stilettos and collared shirts you come to expect in the Playhouse theatre. As a Green Day and musical fan, and my boyfriend an even bigger Green Day one, it seemed only fit to purchase tickets for the show as his Christmas present (kudos to me; a present we could both enjoy!), and we’d been waiting ever-so patiently for the opening night to arrive. And, we certainly weren’t disappointed.

The performance was surprisingly opened with the house lights up, as we met the characters of the show one by one. They tuned into the day’s breaking news, watching as political wars and real wars unfolded on their television sets. Minutes later, and without so much as a 1-2-3-4, the high-octane musical kicked into gear with the classic American Idiot punchy riff. From there, the audience were taken on a whirlwind of rock and roll, dance numbers, and emotional letters from lead rocker Johnny.

American Idiot The Musical follows the story of the three characters developed within Green Day’s punk rock opera album; Johnny (Ben Bennett) alongside his alter ego St. Jimmy (portrayed by the ever-rocking Chris Cheney of The Living End), as well as Johnny’s two best mates Will (Alex Jeans) and Tunny (Cameron MacDonald). The audience followed the trio’s journey, through the demeaning reality of a media-saturated society, the trials and tribulations of their disillusionment with the world, and naturally the friendships, rage, and love along the way.

Presented by shake & stir and QPAC, American Idiot The Musical was undoubtedly one of the most impressive musical productions I’ve ever seen, if not the most impressive live performance of anything I’ve ever seen. From beginning to end, the performance was full-throttle, and without a doubt showcased the talent of not only the cast but also the playwright. A personal highlight for myself was Ben Bennett’s portrayal of Johnny, who provided a seamless mixture of imperfect, yet totally believable vocals and stellar emotive performances. Though he mostly surprised us with the sheer number of times he could undress and redress onstage! After reading countless feature interviews with lead role holders Chris Cheney and Phil Jamieson prior to opening night, I can say that an interview with the real star would not have gone astray.

Fully aware that I can’t complete this review without discussing the obvious, I must say that Chris Cheney’s portrayal of the evil and manipulative St. Jimmy was outstanding. And, despite often opposing the casting of superstars among regular cast, I can say that for a musical of American Idiot, casting one of Australia’s most recognisable rockers could not make more sense. I’m just jealous of those who get to witness Phil Jamieson’s portrayal during in the season!

Another highlight for me was the spectacular vocals and dancing performances by the four females within the cast. In particular, the Extraordinary Girl, played by the extremely talented Rowena Vilar, wowing us all with mesmerising aerial acrobatics while suspended from the ceiling, with spectacularly angelic vocals all the while.

After eagerly awaiting the night ever since the show was announced, I can safely say I’d highly recommend the show to anyone wanting to relive their mid-2000s punk-rock selves, or even just for an absolutely rocking night out. If the audience’s double standing ovation is anything to go by, it’s a show not to miss!

★★★★★

The Jungle Giants open tour with a bang

You know you have dedicated fans when they’ll wait outside, on the street, for you.

Brisbane’s The Jungle Giants brought the house down at The Triffid, like you could only expect at the opening show of their tour, in their home town. The banIMG_1061d are on the road for their second tour round with 2015 album ‘Speakerzoid’, on the ‘We Can Work Together’ Tour.

The night opened with three support bands, however, the one who shone was The Lulu Raes. Their crowd engagement was fantastic and had some cracking tunes.

But it was clear the crowd was there for one thing. With a nearly sold-out crowd, The Jungle Giants played a pleasantly surprising mix of their good old stuff from EPs and debut LP, as well as newer tracks from ‘Speakerzoid’.

The night kicked off with ‘What Do You Think’ from the second record, and quickly set the tone for the night. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Sam Hales built the crowd’s momentum early, amping up fans from the get-go. Though it was the old favourites that showed what the crowds were truly about, with ‘Anywhere Else’ and ‘Mr Polite’.

Quirky and cool, and certainly a little flirty with the crowd, Sam’s onstage presence was felt by every person in the room. Throughout the evening, he appeased the crowd with spontaneous flute playing and sculling a beer, after picking on lead guitarist Cesira Aitken mid-gig.

Although as quickly as the epic groovy tunes began, the regretful call came of “this is our last song”, before the foursome had even played everyone’s favourite tracks.

The crowd went silent as the song’s opening riff began, but before they could kick off, out the stage lights went and the band’s instruments fell silent. The jam-packed venue stood still.

A faint alarm could be heard and red lights flashed from the ceiling, and it wasn’t long before it was realised that this wasn’t a drill, nor was it a show stunt. The fire escape doors were opened onto Stratton Street, and just like farm animals, the crowd was herded out of the venue.

Half of the crowd gave up and headed for home, as two fire trucks came blaring into the Newstead side street. By now, the crowds, and the band members, had waited five minutes outside. The crowd was left confused and had no clue whether the band would even continue the gig. Though much to everyone’s relief, after over 15 minutes later the band were allowed re-entry into the building.IMG_1065

No, it wasn’t The Beatles, or One Direction, but homegrown The Jungle Giants, that had a crowd of their fans awaiting them outside the Newstead venue.

Luckily, the eager anticipation and dedication of fans paid off, and the gig was to go on. Sam quickly jumped back onstage after the slightly longer than anticipated encore break, and explained how a small fire did occur onstage. Now on the stage alone, he got his guitar back, and played a beautifully stripped back opening of classic ‘You’ve Got Something’, before the band joined him to finish the song with a bang. Without letting the dwindling crowd numbers get them down, they capped-off the night with bangers ‘I Am What You Want Me To Be’ and newer Triple J favourite ‘Every Kind Of Way’.

Needless to say, these sorts of events show who the true fans are, and without a doubt showcased the professionalism of The Triffid’s staff, and The Jungle Giants’ perseverance for their fans.

 

The Jungle Giants Set List:

What Do You Think

Anywhere Else

Mr Polite

Creepy Cool

Lemon Myrtle

Kooky Eyes

Together We Can Work Together

She’s A Riot

Devil’s Play

Somewhat prolonged encore: 

You’ve Got Something

I Am What You Want Me To Be

Every Kind Of Way

The Temper Trap blow minds at The Triffid

As I am not a die-hard fan of these Melbourne boys, I was a bit dubious about the likelihood of my enjoyment at the gig on Saturday (7 May). I’ve listened to the albums countless times, and find the music great for dinners and hang out sessions, though I definitely couldn’t call myself a fan up until now. As they released recent singles ‘Thick As Thieves’ and ‘Fall Together’ my passion for the evening quickly gained momentum. The Triffid set the perfect scene for The Temper Trap’s anthem sounds, and although their music is definitely suitable for the big stadiums and arenas they’re accustomed to supporting in, the small venue was equally as fantastic, as their sound echoed through the round roof and through to the top balcony.

Melbourne’s Edward R. opened for The Temper Trap, and to my surprise I found myself amazed. The usual “oh god, when will this support act ever end” couldn’t be said, as these guys took the stage with professionalism, undeniable talent and unique charisma. The lead singer had a fabulous stage presence, as I found myself watching him dance around the stage, and I am most definitely looking forward to following them on their musical adventures in the coming years.

After unexpectedly falling in love with the support act, The Temper Trap finally graced the stage, kicking off the night with the new album’s first single ‘Thick As Thieves’. The performance of the song was as equally, if not more, impressive than the recorded version. Following up with classics such as ‘Love Lost’ and ‘Down River’, the band tested out a whole seven unreleased, unheard new tracks off forthcoming album (named after the initial single release).

Each of the new tracks showcased the incredible songwriting and performance talents of the four blokes, and reassured the crowd that we can expect great things from the new record. Dougy Mandagi’s epic vocals left the crowd in awe for the entire set, and truly finished off the night with some welcomed old favourites, including an extended, heart-pumping rendition of lyric-less ‘Drum Song’ and the famous ‘Sweet Disposition’.

Though for the encore things were shaken up, with a live version of their recent Triple J Like a Version, followed by epic new anthem ‘Fall Together’ and crowd-favourite ‘Science Of Fear’. Much to the delight of fans, the final track saw Dougy jump the barrier into the adoring crowd, dragging his mic with him, giving us an up-close-and-personal experience with the lyrical and vocal legend. Though I found myself being a little disappointed that we didn’t get ‘Fader’ anywhere in the list, the entire night was amazing from start to finish, from the passionate crowd to the echoing of Dougy’s outstanding vocals for days to come.

 

 

The Triffid – The Temper Trap set list:

Thick as Thieves
Love Lost
Down River
So Much Sky
Trembling Hands
Summer’s Almost Gone
Burn
Lost
Resurrection
Alive
Drum Song
Sweet Disposition

Encore:

Soldier On
Multi-Love (Like A Version Cover)
Fall Together
Science of Fear

Hearty Hemingway

I have never been to Teneriffe as it’s one suburb which is not only out of the way for me, being westward in Ashgrove, but has always seemed a little too commercial to really immerse into cafes and such.

This morning English boy and his family (and me in tow) headed to his brother’s local cafe, Hemingway, and I was suitably impressed.

The decor, the natural woods and metallic details, the homeliness and the local vibe all made for a beautiful morning. Though it was absolutely pouring down outside, inside felt cozy, snug and was completely sheltered. Staff seemed busy but served with a smile and prices were reasonable, considering the location.

I ordered myself my typical – hot chocolate and a breakfast channeling Ron Swanson, i.e. all the bacon and eggs they had in. After eyeing off the french toast and accompanying ice-cream, I settled for their eggs-your-way, scrambled (is there any other way?) and an extra side of bacon.

The eggs were outstanding – that light, cooked just enough (but not too much) for deliciousness, sour dough toasted to perfection and bacon to die for. So what more could you really want? Let’s be honest, I would have loved a little hash brown on the side, but for those that know me, know that I eat hash browns like they’re the only food on the planet.

My hot chocolate, though always slightly disappointing when they come in a glass (particularly not double-walled) was superb – frothy and delectable, with the little marshmallows resting on my spoon to nibble on. The rest of the family ordered coffees and got a little chocolate freckle on their spoon, which I would have loved, though marshmallows certainly suit the hot chocolate vibe far more.

If not for the distance across to Teneriffe, Hemingway Cafe is the kind of cafe I would frequent if not almost reside in. If you’re in the area, or fancy a trip along the river on the CityCat, it’s one cozy cafe that is a joy to spend the morning in.

Dance boy, Vance Joy

IMG_4370Riverstage is never a fun place to be when it has been raining, or much worse when it is raining. Despite the day’s weather, 1000s poured into the venue last night to witness the very Aussie, very charming Vance Joy (or James Keogh) do his beautiful folk-y thing.

Thankfully, after spending the day avoiding the wet, the weather gods held off the downpour for the concert and only a few spatters saw a few less-brave punters throwing on their plastic ponchos. Though many would simply not have noticed if it was pouring, sun shining or hailing, mesmerised by the Vance’s acoustic acoustic chords and stunning voice.

There was not a single complaint from anywhere, as the Melbourne 29-year-old opened with Mess Is Mine, arguably one of his better songs, and continued through many of the hits on his latest LP ‘Dream Your Life Away’. In between songs, James’ threw out cute anecdotes of beginning songwriting and the first family approval, and even kept the crowd giggling with a hilarious ‘becoming a man’ story about catching a spider for his sister just recently.

As expected the curly-headed chap eventually brought out the ukulele, playing the well-known songs from his very first EP ‘God Loves You When You’re Dancing’, the very one that made him the celebrated artist he is today. He captivated the audience with Play With Fire and Snaggletooth, with his charismatic charm glowing. The entire crowd lit up though, when the first chords of the now very-famous ‘Riptide’ began and very quickly everyone was on their feet, dancing and singing.

Then to put the icing on the cake, the band kicked off an epic ‘You Can Call Me Al’ cover, which if you weren’t up and dancing, certainly got you grooving. With a little snippet of Omi’s ‘Cheerleader’ slotted in there too, crowds young and old were having a treat.

As quick as he came on though, James disappeared, only to realise he was a mere 15 minutes from the 10pm curfew and he had to quickly belt out his encore. With a heartfelt ‘My Kind Of Man’ topping the night off lyrically and ‘Fire And The Flood’ capping the night with a fantastic mini fireworks display.

Brisbane Riverstage – Vance Joy set list:

Mess Is Mine
Red Eye
Winds Of Change
All I Ever Wanted
Straight Into Your Arms
From Afar / Wasted Time
Play With Fire
Snaggletooth
Georgia
Best That I Can
Riptide
You Can Call Me Al (Paul Simon cover)
Encore:
My Kind Of Man
Fire And The Flood

My ‘local’, The Grove

In the midIMG_9837dle of Ashgrove, The Grove bar has been on my to-do list of bars and eateries ever since moving back to Brisbane over six months ago. The quaint, vintage-style bar and adjoining restaurant is a quick stop-off from the grocery giants next door, but is certainly no carbon-copy of the chains around it.

For English Boy’s official birthday date night, we walked the quiet streets of Ashgrove and headed to The Grove to grab a few celebratory drinks and something to nibble on. The local name, in itself, perfectly encompasses its definite ‘local’ atmosphere. With a warming, homely feel, the unique downstairs bar had an exciting familiarity and comfortability, even though we’d never set foot in the place. Everyone not only seemed local, but The Grove perfectly combines the features anyone could want at their ‘local’. There were options for both indoor and outdoor seating perfect for the whirlwind that is Queensland’s climate and weather, quite a pleasant surprise of comfortable seating, a range of delicious yet easy on the wallet meal options and most importantly friendly staff.

Although there were few tables to be seen without ‘reserved’ signs (yes, we forgot to book), the staff not only catered for us, but for a large group outside and an even larger inside gathering of family and friends for a 21st birthday. The bar was quickly filled with young 20-somethings and bustling after-work drinkers, however, we were served in a timely and friendly manner. Our order, a deliciously meaty pizza and side of chips, appeared quickly after ordering and were undoubtedly fantastic.

I can safely say that I’ll be returning to the bar – if for nothing else than its convenience. But luckily for them, when I return, it will also be for the great atmosphere and delicious food.

My first trip to GOMA

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I’m going to come right out and say it… I am not arty. I don’t know the first thing about the Renaissance, Impressionism or any of the other countless -isms of the art history timeline. I took high school art until it was no longer a required subject, and boy was I terribly disinterested and talentless. So it should come as no surprise that I’ve been a Brisbane and Sunshine Coast girl my entire life and I still had not been to the Gallery of Modern Art. GOMA was a place I’d seen many of my friends visit and appear to have a pleasant time, and ever since it’s been on my Brisbane to-do list. So, I dragged myself and English Boy (kicking and screaming) to visit Brisbane’s most modern and talked about art.

I should first establish that my lack of interest and knowledge in visual arts deems me absolutely no right to accurately or academically critique the works I saw that miserably rainy Brisbane morning. Though, I couldn’t help but simply be bored with the overall experience. In and out of the building within an hour, leaving as confused about art as I was when I entered.

Unfortunately, most of the works felt sporadically and confusingly placed in a fairly illogical order and layout. I felt as though most were nothing spectacular, and rarely ignited sparks of intrigue for me. There were the odd one or two paintings which wow-ed me, however, for the most part I just didn’t quite understand anything (though that’s probably no fault of the gallery).

That being said, I can’t deny that the majority of the works were modern. Though what I can say is that there were a few too many video footage playbacks and not enough visitor involvement, of which I had preconceived was all part of the GOMA experience. I wanted to immerse myself in art – not just look at it. That is modernity. Unfortunately, perhaps, we went at the wrong time of year, or when there simply wasn’t anything of that calibre to provide, but it did leave a disappointing taste in my mouth – much like the caesar salad I had today, with too much lettuce and not enough parmesan and bacon.

All this aside, I no doubt will revisit at some point, who knows whether that will be when I am craving air-conditioning on another scorching Queensland summer day, or if a user-friendly exhibit pops up and sparks my interest. For now, I think it might be a good idea to stick with the art forms I can interpret and understand – dance, music and writing.