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Long time readers of my blog will know there are few things I enjoy more than a night out at the Central Coast’s hallowed venue, Lizotte’s. On Saturday I made the pilgrimage to check out its sister venue in Newcastle.

What an impressive spot. Somehow they’ve managed to bring the intimacy of Kincumber’s “cubby house” to a slightly larger space. It gave us a little more room to spread out, making the experience just a little more decadent. The waitstaff still have some work to do to replicate the excellent service we receive on the Coast, but the food was top notch. And the concert, well that was another thrill.

After blasting Polarity for much of last week, I was excited to see The Bloodpoets in the live arena. However my enthusiasm was matched by equal parts trepidation. I wasn’t sure whether my parents and their friends would warm to the heavier elements of this exciting new Aussie act. But I needn’t have worried. The beauty of producing such an eclectic album is that you can tailor your set to your audience. They toned things down a notch from the recording, embracing the poppier numbers rather than the darker rock songs. It worked. Everyone on my table raved about them, which is no mean feat considering the generation gap.

Next it was a trip back to my childhood with The Badloves. Their album Get on Board was one of the first I bought. I was just 13, and I thought Michael Spiby was the sexiest man alive. I remember being devastated when they split, as I wasn’t old enough to see them play the pub circuit. It’s rare to wait more than a decade to see a band, and my expectations were sky high. But the band met them. They’re still so tight, oozing bluesy cool. And yes, Michael Spiby still makes my heart skip a beat.

The set was largely a trip down memory lane, with a peppering of new numbers easily blending with the old. I sang my heart out to those beloved hits, “I Remember,” “Lost,” “Green Limousine,” and a rollicking version of “The Weight.” “Caroline” was notably absent, but they played so much it was hard to fault them for that. It took me a ridiculous amount of time to catch my first Badloves show. I promise not to leave it so long next time!

Image source: own photo

After a few days off, I was having Australian Idol withdrawals. Tonight’s show didn’t disappoint, with some of the best talent getting a second chance. But first up it was time to announce our newest finalists. After Thursday’s show Kim Cooper and James Johnston were voted through to the top 12. After some rapid-fire wildcard contestant announcements it was time for the performances.
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Lucie Johnson started the show with “Boogie Wonderland.” I really liked her song choice, and I thought the introduction was sublime. But I think when she started to move, she lost it a little bit. Of course you need to dance in “Boogie Wonderland,” but it’s when a few breath and pitch issues crept in. Even with those flaws, she sounds better than most people, but those little flaws distracted me a little. I see a lot of potential in Lucie, but this is going to be one tough night.

Casey Barnes was up next with “Never Say Never (Don’t Let Me Go)” by The Fray. It was an interesting song choice, not so commercial approachable but a lot more believable. The falsetto wasn’t the greatest, but his voice is solid. It was definitely an improvement on last week, but he still feels a little middle-of-the-road.

Aliqua Mao was up next with “The Power of Love.” It was an incredibly dumb choice. If the judges slam you for singing big ballads that are beyond your capabilities one week, you don’t front up and do the same thing for the wildcard night. Celine and Whitney both share the space, and it’s one far above what Aliqua can do. What a wasted wildcard opportunity.
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Lauren Street was already on the right path, although she turned down the volume a little tonight. “Low” by Kelly Clarkson was a smart choice. By showing a more vulnerable side, she might just have scored the votes of the people scared off by the Alanis act! Another solid performance that makes me pretty certain the judges will put her through even if the judges don’t.
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At the age of 16, Grace Bawden has done more than many of us achieve in a lifetime. She made it to the finals of Australia’s Got Talent, she was a soloist at World Youth Day, and on September 18, her debut album Gifts of Grace will hit stores. I caught up with this talented teen to chat about the CD, her upcoming tour, and how music has changed her life.gracepromoshot

You’ve been performing professionally since your early teens. Did you ever imagine doing anything else but singing?
Actually, I wanted to be a pharmacist, but singing is something I have always wanted to do. But I didn’t take it seriously until I was about 11 when I started winning competitions and getting solo roles in choirs.

You were a part of Australia’s Got Talent last year. What was it like to be part of that show?
It was awesome. I had the best time. There was a lot of pressure and hard work now when I look back on it, but it was exciting at the same time because I wanted to prove myself and show people a side of me that they hadn’t seen before. I was never able to sing opera or classical in public like that before and then I was given that wonderful opportunity. I really will never forget the fun or the show and having my family together. I was also great meeting so many other wonderfully talented contestants. I’m still good friends with quite a few of them and we support each others careers. I really hope I get to perform with them again one day.

How important was the exposure that program gave you?
Extremely important, even though in Australia the exposure is minimal compared with, say, the US or UK, but without a major label behind you, that kind of exposure is almost impossible to get for any artist. Because I only got one go at it, we had to put a lot of thought into choosing the right songs to make the right impact with the audience. The grand final song really let me find my more creative side I hadn’t been able to explore, but I’ve been writing more songs since.

You’re about to release your debut album Gifts of Grace. How exciting is that?
I’m still pinching myself and can’t believe it’s real. But I have many wonderful people around me making it all happen and wanting to be a part of the project. It really is overwhelming and I just want to show people they haven’t seen the best of me yet. My producer, Audius Mtawirira, his business partner, Jamie Huber, and our investors have really given me this big break and I am deeply grateful for all their hard work and faith in my talent. It’s hard for a young girl from Adelaide to get that kind of opportunity or recognition and none of this would be happening if it wasn’t for the tremendous people around me offering their own time, help and advice. I really feel blessed.
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Darren Hayes is coming home to record a brand new album. He will return to next month after signing a new deal with Sony/ATV Publishing, which includes the rights to the entire Savage Garden back catalogue and future solo works. darren_hayes

“When the catalogue was sold to Sony ATV Australia I was assured that the songs had found a great new home and now that I’ve spent time working with the Australian and UK team, I am certain they have,” he explained. “It’s a great period in my life and career and I feel encouraged and flattered that Sony ATV have shown such commitment to my future solo material.”

It’s been a while since we’ve heard a new Darren Hayes, but he certainly hasn’t been sitting idly. Instead, he’s become one with the most sought after songwriters in the UK after working with Universal, Parlophone and Syco (Simon Cowell’s label) on tracks for their artists. Now he’s back doing his own thing, and after songwriting with the the likes of Phil Thornally (Pixie Lott, Natalie Imbruglia), Brian West (Nelly Furtado), and Rami (Britney Spears, Pink) he’s coming home to lay some tracks down.

“I’m so excited that I’ll be able to come home to Australia and record some of my new music there and involve some familiar talent on my record that I haven’t worked with since the debut Savage Garden album. I’m keen to get this new album finished and get out on the road in Australia and say thank you to everyone who has stood by me over the years.”

As one of those early Savage Garden fans, I’m pretty keen to hear it!

Image used with permission from Original Matters

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The Hilltop Hoods have already done a quickie tour to promote their number one album State of the Art, but now they’re planning to visit the spots that missed out.

The 23-date tour kicks off in Darwin in October, and winds up two months later in Cairns. They’ll take fellow Adelaide residents Vents and DJ ADFU on the road with them for support.

You can get your tickets for all the following shows from September 4.

16 October 2009 – Discovery Nightclub, Darwin (18+)
17 October 2009 – The Mangrove Resort Hotel, Broome (18+)
18 October 2009 – One Movement Festival, Perth (18+ or under 18 with guardian)
23 October 2009 – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney (Licensed All Ages)
24 October 2009 – Uni Hall, University of Wollongong (18+)
25 October 2009 – Fat As Butter Festival, Newcastle (16+)
29 October 2009 – Inferno Nightclub, Traralgon (18+)
30 October 2009 – Wrestpoint Entertainment Centre, Hobart (18+)
31 October 2009 – Albert Hall, Launceston (Licensed All Ages)
6 November 2009 – Big Top, RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane (Licensed All Ages)
7 November 2009 – Seagulls Club, Gold Coast (18+)
12 November 2009 – Shadows Entertainment Complex, Mt. Gambier (18+)
13 November 2009 – Settlers Tavern, Mildura (18+)
14 November 2009 – Jubilee Pavilion, Adelaide Showground, Adelaide (Licensed All Ages)
20 November 2009 – Bendigo Schweppes Centre, Bendigo (All Ages)
21 November 2009 – Trackside Festival, Canberra (Licensed All Ages)
22 November 2009 – New Albury Hotel, Albury (18+)
28 November 2009 – Open Arms Festival, Coffs Harbour (All Ages)
3 December 2009 – Festival Hall, Melbourne (Licensed and Unlicensed All Ages)
5 December 2009 – Homebake Festival, Domain, Sydney (SOLD OUT)
10 December 2009 – Brothers Rugby League Ground, Mackay (Licensed All Ages)
11 December 2009 – Riverway Stadium, Townsville (Licensed All Ages)
12 December 2009 – Brothers Leagues Club, Cairns (15+ with adult)

We’re halfway towards having our top 12, with Sabrina Batshon and Scott Newnham joining the fray. Despite my reservations about him, I figured Scott would coast through. I’m pleasantly surprised that the public embraced Sabrina though.
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Kim Cooper kicked off the night with a searing rendition of Katy Perry’s “Waking Up in Vegas.” I really, really like her. So few women do straight up pop in Australia, and she does it really well. She’s a lot of fun, and I can imagine her bringing a really different flavour to the competition. It’s not one with a lot of depth, but don’t we all just want to sing in a hairbrush every now and then?

Boy it’s shaping up to be some show. Ed Zaidan was up next with a blistering take on Eskimo Joe’s “Foreign Land.” It showed an intensity we haven’t seen before from him, and I’m really enjoying seeing all the sides. I heard the vocal flaws too, but I also think you can get away with that in the rock genre. I really hope we see him in the top 12, because he’s one of those fascinating figures.

Lucie Johnson got her Beyonce on with “Sweet Dreams.” I thought she sang it well and performed it well, but it didn’t really lift into the stratosphere. I think that may be down to song choice: while it’s a very popular and current song it’s also not a very dynamic one. Coming after two such strong performances, I think she may get a little lost in the crowd.
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With their debut album Polarity, The Bloodpoets have created an album that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go until the final strains.bloodpoets

The opening track “Just In Time” bursts from the speakers, and the follow-up and first single “Borderline” is just as hard hitting. This is the kind of music that demands to be turned up loud. But it’s not just the energy that appeals. They might be a band that rocks hard, but The Bloodpoets also have a strong pop sensibility. Their tunes are infectiously addictive. They’ve got their quirks to be sure, but I can imagine these melodic songs becoming mainstays of Triple M.

But there’s a lot more going on here than straight down-the-line energetic rock numbers. The natural humour of “Give It a Shot” is so refreshing. The dark instrumentation of “Straight Ahead” is interesting too. And the closer, “My Paradise” is an epic more ambitious than most would attempt on their debut album. The track is a risk, yet amazingly it works.

After playing Polarity for a few days I realised I’m actually going to see The Bloodpoets supporting The Badloves this weekend. I can’t wait to discover whether they can capture the energy of this disc in the live arena.

Polarity is in stores from October 3.

Image source: own scan

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The third semifinal in our big week of Australian Idol kicked off with the announcement of two new finalists. I’m feeling a bit cocky about my tipping skills at the moment! Just as I predicted, Ashleigh Toole and Nathan Brake earned places in the top 12.

Daniel Raso opened up the show with The Real Thing’s “You To Me Are Every Thing.” There’s something so likeable about Daniel, and this was a really fun performance. It didn’t really show off his vocal chops, but it did highlight his mad performing skills. I agree that it was a strange choice, and probably a little too old-fashioned for the voting public, but I still liked this a lot.

There should be a rule not to sing “I Will Always Love You.” Only two people in this world can do it justice: Whitney Houston and Dolly Parton. It was simply too big for Aliqua Mao. Her voice is a little too thin, and she really pitchy. I know how hard this song is to sing. It’s one that I love to belt out. It was a risky move, and I don’t think it paid off, despite Marcia’s praise.

I was disappointed when Nicole Banks missed out on the top 12 last time, so I really wanted her to succeed this year. But I think her version of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” missed the mark. It started off really shaky, and definitely improved. But it simply wasn’t consistent. I’d think she was hitting her stride, and then it went off again. I admire her ambition and vision, but the execution fell short.
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Sydney three-piece Philadelphia Grand Jury are soon to release their new single “The Good News,” but they want you to hear it first.

Right-click here to save your free MP3 of the track, before it hits radio in a couple of weeks. This infectious slice of retro rock comes from the Philly Jays’ debut album Hope is for Hopers, which is scheduled to drop on September 25.

If you like what you hear make sure you experience the band’s acclaimed live shows at one of the following venues around the country.

27 August 2009 – Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay (with Dappled Cities Fly and Yacht Club DJs)
28 August 2009 – Bon Amici, Toowoomba (with Dappled Cities Fly and Yacht Club DJs)
29 August 2009 – The Zoo, Brisbane (with Dappled Cities Fly and Yacht Club DJs)
3 September 2009 – Jive, Adelaide (with Dappled Cities Fly and Yacht Club DJs)
4 September 2009 – Amplifier Bar, Perth (with Dappled Cities Fly and Yacht Club DJs)
5 September 2009 – Norfolk Basement, Fremantle (with Dappled Cities Fly and Yacht Club DJs)
11 September 2009 – Big Sound, Brisbane
12 September 2009 – Bimbadgen Blues Roots Funk n Grooves, Pokolbin
16 September 2009 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne (with Grinspoon)
17 September 2009 – The Factory, Sydney (with Grinspoon)
19 September 2009 – Hi Fi Bar, Brisbane(with Grinspoon)
17 October 2009 – Fresh Festival, Gold Coast
18 October 2009 – One Movement, Perth
25 October 2009 – Fat As Butter, Newcastle
30 December 2009 – Falls Festival, Marion Bay
31 December 2009 – Falls Festival, Lorne

Image used with permission from The Delinquents

Australia has a habit of adopting talented Kiwis. Think Evermore, Neil and Tim Finn, and Russell Crowe. Now there’s another name to add to the list: Gin Wigmore. I caught up with this exciting singer-songwriter ahead of the release of her debut album, Holy Smoke. gin_l9o9386_final

You’re from New Zealand, but you’re spending a lot of time in Australia these days. Are you starting to feel like a local?
Yeah definitely, I have a really awesome bunch of Aussie mates here which I reckon makes life feel like home pretty quickly. I’m still yet to be on first name basis with my convenience store-man, so when that happens I reckon I will be as local as it comes!

What do you miss about New Zealand when you’re here in Australia?
My family, friends and the New Zealand Crunchie bars. They are just not the same here; they go all crumbly, nowhere near as good as Kiwi-made.

You’re about to release your debut album Holy Smoke. What can you tell me about it?
It’s got a lot of spirit. Holy Smoke is a real adventure so get listening ASAP!

You worked on the album with Mike Elizondo, who’s produced so many amazing records. What did he bring to your sound?
Excitement and a real punchiness. He has got a great ear for knowing what sounds commercial yet still keeping intact the heart and soul of what makes a song intriguing and fresh.
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