I’ve been reading a lot of criticism about The Voice lately. I’ve heard that the program exploits its artists, that it doesn’t recognise the talent of established musicians, that industry professionals shouldn’t appear in the first place, that it’s gimmicky and fake and not the place Australians should turn to when discovering local music. I don’t deny the talent of many Aussie musos slogging away in the pubs and clubs. I accept this program isn’t an arena that many musicians would feel comfortable competing in. But when I question the value of a program like The Voice, I just have to look at Darren Percival.
Darren was one of those musicians I knew before he stood in front of those four chairs last year. I’d seen him sporadically live before then, singing backup vocals for James Morrison, and Jimmy and Mahalia Barnes. It took that program to take Darren to the front of the stage. And that’s just where I like him.
There’s something about the promise of a Darren Percival performance at Lizotte’s Kincumber that is irresistible to me. I’ve now seen him three times at the venue since he won The Voice, and every show’s been special. Darren seems so comfortable here, in this small space where punters can pass him handwritten notes acknowledging their parents’ wedding anniversary and milestone birthdays. He seems to thrive on the intimacy that comes when he can step down off the stage and walk amongst us, sitting down beside one adoring fan, taking the hand of another. There’s none of that inevitable distance that comes from a larger venue, and we all lap it up.
Much like the last time I saw Darren, the set contained highlights from Darren’s time on The Voice, the Ray Charles covers featured on his latest album, and a few other favourites. The blend doesn’t change too much, but there are always a few surprises. Who on earth would have expected a cover on Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue”? That alone might have been worth the price of admission, but I also hung on every word of his incredible version of “Georgia on My Mind”, and his solo take on “Without You”, the song he sang with mentor Keith Urban while on “that reality show”. His rousing rendition of “Hit the Road Jack”, with back-up singing from the captivated audience, was also spectacular.
You can say what you want about The Voice, but I’m thrilled it exists if only to see artists like Darren headlining concerts like the one I witnessed. I wonder which of the new breed I’ll be raving about in this way next year?
Image source: own photo