Art of Music Live is a unique celebration of Aussie music for a good cause. Jenny Morris will curate the biannual event which brings acclaimed musicians including Megan Washington, Neil Finn, and Jack Carty together to pay tribute to some of our most beloved songs. No two shows will ever be the same, so if you’re not there you’ll miss out.

Proceeds from the event go to Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy, an organisation that transforms lives through music therapy. The group has helped mute children speak and given others that couldn’t move their arms fine motor skills. It’s also helped elderly Australians struggling with dementia. This is truly an organisation doing good.

Art of Music Live hits the Sydney Opera House on 4 May. Tickets cost $195 and are on sale from the Art of Music website.

Image used with permission from Ferris Davies PRM

I had to rely on this blog to tell me how many times I’ve seen Glen Hansard perform. It seems Sunday’s show at the Sydney Opera House was my fourth time seeing the Irish troubadour, yet the gloss never seems to wear off.

Funnily enough, when my husband and I tell people we’re seeing Glen Hansard we’re always met with blank faces. We mention the movie and stage musical Once, the song “Falling Slowly” it spawned, yet still there’s no recognition. I’m not sure why he hasn’t broken through to the mainstream yet, but I’m glad there are enough of us dedicated fans to see Glen sell out iconic venues like the Opera House twice over.

One of the things that keeps me coming back to see Glen is that every show is different. This time he was out promoting his newish album Didn’t He Ramble, so there were new songs to enjoy. He was also out here with one of the biggest bands I can remember, made up of members of The Frames, the act that saw him come to prominence, as well a string section and pianist.

Mercifully for a show starting at 9 on a school night there was no support act. Glen and his players walked out without fanfare, setting the scene for a show that was more about true talent than bells and whistles. And there we were, transfixed, for the best part of three hours. This generous set never felt laboured because Glen has so much quality music to draw from. The long set gave us time to hear the stories behind songs and enjoy extended jams which showcased the quality of all musicians on the stage. Everyone was so talented, but Glen is the one who demands attention. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performer that’s so committed to his songs, so connected to his music. It’s a raw, beautiful to see him strumming furiously at an instrument, crying out his lyrics.

Most of the songs drew from Didn’t He Ramble, but he still delved back into the old Frames and Swell Season catalogue for those of us who’ve supported his music all these years. “Star Star” morphed into “Pure Imagination,” a fitting tribute to the late Gene Wilder. A cover of “Astral Weeks,” a nod to his fellow countryman Van Morrison was another highlight for this woman who was raised on Van’s music.

There were also special guests. Glen brought up Peter, a busker he’d met on the streets of Sydney who played a stunning song he’d penned for his mother. Watching this young guy so overwhelmed to be on the Opera House stage, to be playing Glen’s guitar, to be so supported by a musical hero, was so moving. Peader O’Riada, a legendary Irish classical pianist also joined Glen for “Leave a Light” before treating us to a few of his own compositions. I don’t listen to a lot of classical music but I couldn’t help but be impressed by his talent.

As we were shuffling out of the theatre I heard the gentleman behind me turn to his friends and say “I have the feeling we just witnessed something really special.” I can’t help but agree.

Image source: own photo

Like so many Australians, some of my earliest musical memories came from watching Disney movies. Songs like “We Are Siamese” and “Once Upon a Dream” became early favourites. My parents bought my sister and I the read-a-long books with cassettes, and while the stories were fun, it was always the bonus songs at the end that got us dancing. When music makes such an early impression on you, I don’t think it ever really leaves your heart. So when I heard of the Disney Under the Stars concert, I snapped up tickets.

I expected my husband and I would be one of the few childless couples. However, most of the people in our immediate area were in the same boat, adults unashamed of their passion for Disney. We discussed our favourite movies and characters until Chong Lim and his orchestra took to the stage and treated us to an instrumental medley of some of Disney’s most beloved songs, complete with an animated background of movie moments.

David Campbell, Ricki Lee, Lucy Durack, and Harrison Craig soon joined the musicians for “Part of Your World” from Aladdin. It was a wonderful start to a night that combined nostalgia, magic, and fun, all of the essential Disney elements.
There were so many highlights that took me back to some of my favourite film memories. Ricki Lee might have looked more like Ariel than Lucy Durack, but the blonde stage star carried off the animated mermaid’s signature song “Part of Your World” beautifully. Ricki Lee did her part playing the princess roles too, with superb solo performances of “Colours of the Wind” and “Let it Go.” I’d heard David Campbell sing “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book at his shows before, but it lost nothing despite the familiarity. Speaking of David, his performance of one of the songs from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was one of the true showstoppers. I also loved seeing him pal around with Harrison Craig in “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” A rambunctious group performance of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” had everyone clapping and singing along. The good versus evil dichotomy of Lucy Durack and Ricki Lee’s performance of “Once Upon a Dream” was really inventive, although I can’t help thinking it was a little dark for those little girls dressed as princesses in the crowd.

It’s very hard on a night like this to please everybody. As an older concert goer, I could have done without the three (or was it four?) songs from Frozen played. While I enjoyed “Mother Knows Best” from Tangled and “Touch the Sky” from Brave, I could have easily given them up for a few older Disney tracks. I felt for the woman sitting in front of me who adored Cinderella, yet didn’t get to hear one song from this film. Some of my personal favourites, Dumbo and Robin Hood, were also neglected. But for the younger crowd, there’s never enough Frozen, and those new movies are the one they have fond childhood memories of. While big kids like me could have fun on a night like this, it’s perhaps more important the smallest members of the audience are not left feeling short-changed. Sometimes tells me it’s what Walt would have wanted.

Image source: own photos

It’s been six long years since Rob Thomas graced us with a solo tour. That time around he was promoting his sophomore solo album Cradlesong and the heavens opened up, making Hope Estate a soggy muddy mess. Yesterday couldn’t have been more different, a steamy summer’s day that made me worry about getting burned even with a wide-brimmed hat and healthy helping of 50+ sunscreen. Those weather extremes aren’t ideal for an outdoor show, but when I know Rob Thomas will soon be in front of me I’m always willing to grin and bear it.

But first I had to make it through Pete Murray. I don’t know what it is about Pete Murray. He’s a good-looking guy who sings folky acoustic guitar driven music. On paper, he’s exactly what I like. However, I’ve just never been able to engage with him. Probably those moments anticipating a performance from my very favourite singer in the world weren’t the ones I’d suddenly develop an appreciation for Pete. I will say that he performed very well. He joked about the men a little less reluctant to embrace his set, and encouraged them to sing along as well. He sounded just as he does on the radio and he has a really tight band. His lead guitarist was particularly impressive. He played all the hits, although hearing them one after another only reinforced my idea that his music is a little samey. I couldn’t fault what he did. It just still wasn’t for me.

Rob Thomas on the other hand …

I wondered whether in a week that was sadly shrouded in controversy I could expect the same energy and fun from Rob, but as he burst out with “Give Me the Meltdown,” a high-energy number from Cradlesong. It left no doubt that we were all there to have a good time, and that’s just what we did. In fact, I think I might have had the most fun I’ve ever had at a Rob Thomas show, and believe me there have been a few. Rob kept the energy up with “Fallin’ to Pieces,” “Lonely No More,” and “Her Diamonds.” I marvelled at the song choices, a wonderful mix of the numbers everyone knew and the tracks near and dear to the heart of the fans who buy the albums.

A stripped back, raw performance of “Ever the Same” had me choked up. It was as near to perfection as I think I’ve ever heard. “Pieces,” another ballad and one of the rare songs from the new album The Great Unknown to make the set, was so powerful. His lively cover of “Let’s Dance” was a fitting tribute to Bowie. “Streetcorner Symphony,” with its lyrics of being there for one another, sisters and brothers of every different colour, was the most delightful way of putting all of the media muckraking to rest.

Rob’s banter with the crowd might have got him in trouble last week, but he wasn’t about to stop giving of himself that way. I love that. For me it’s the stories that make a concert. Moments like hearing about the admiration he has for his wife’s strength, and how that inspired him to write the album’s title track, “The Great Unknown.” Moments like listening to him speak about living in the moment and appreciating the beauty in it, even if it’s something as seemingly insignificant as standing around while your dog defecates, made a song like “Little Wonders” resonate a little more deeply.

There’s a line in that song that says “I cannot forget the way I feel right now.” Standing there, watching my very favourite singer, a person who has such a special place in my heart, I thought about just how I felt, how wonderful that very moment was.

You know the best thing about it all though? For the last few tours I’ve scaled back my concert activities. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I’d always see two or three shows on Rob’s solo or Matchbox Twenty tours. Then I got older and married and reasoned I needed to be responsible, that I had other priorities in my life. I was still committed to this notion until Rob announced a State Theatre show. The allure of seeing my favourite singer in such a small venue was so strong that I snapped up tickets.

So as I watched the show last night, there was none of that sadness I usually get, because this tour’s not over for me. Tomorrow night I get to do it all again, with Rob playing a more intimate, stripped back set, so he informed us. I am so thrilled that this concert high gets to last a little longer. Rob’s going to have to pull out something special to top last night’s gig, but I’m sure he’s up to the task.

Image source: own photos

The Entertainment Centre and Allphones Arena might get the lion’s share of the big-name acts, but there are plenty of better places to see bands in Sydney. Read on to discover five of the best.

1. Sydney Opera House

Image via Flickr by cogdogblog

There’s a reason why international artists revere the Sydney Opera House. Its Concert Hall was purpose-built to offer some of the best acoustics around. Of course it hosts symphonies and operas, but in recent years it’s also played host to an eclectic mix of big-name acts like Tori Amos, Ben Folds, Michael Buble, and Jason Mraz. Seeing a show there always feels extra special.

2. State Theatre

Image via Flickr by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

I get chills whenever I hear that one of my favourite musicians is performing at the State Theatre. This beautiful heritage-listed building feels a lot like the Civic in my old stomping ground of Newcastle, with its dramatic staircases and eclectic mix of Gothic, Italian, and Art Deco design features. The sound is always exquisite, and it’s so intimate that there really are no bad seats. David Byrne, Human Nature, Cyndi Lauper, and Dave Matthews Band are some of the amazing artists I’ve seen here over the years.

3. Enmore Theatre

Image via Flickr by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

The Enmore’s another intimate venue that has a real charm. It’s a long way from the beauty of the State; there are no frills about it at all. But you’ve got to have respect for a venue that’s still going strong 106 years after it opened its doors. That makes it the longest-running, currently operational live music venue in the state. The Rolling Stones, Counting Crows, Coldplay, and John Mayer are just a handful of the artists who’ve played in this hallowed hall.

4. The Annandale Hotel

Image via Flickr by Newtown Graffiti

Of course it can’t all be about posh venues with plush seating though. If you want to see a band before they break you need to brave the sticky floors of Sydney’s pubs and clubs. Some of my fondest early music memories centred around the Annandale. I remember catching artists like Howie Day and Thirsty Merc here for next to nothing back in the day. I haven’t been for years, but a quick look at its website shows me the Annandale’s still showcasing the best up and comers.

5. The Standard Bowl

I was so impressed with The Standard when I visited a few years ago, even if I did feel far too old for its hipster crowd. If, like me, you’re too old to stand around all night waiting for the bands to appear, arrive early and sneak up to the top level where you can enjoy a few bevvies while you survey the action below. I loved the bird’s eye view I got upstairs, but there’s also plenty of space on the lower level for punters wanting to get a little closer to the action. And it just got even cooler this year with the addition of a bowling alley!

Where do you like to see live music in Sydney? Add your views to the discussion below!

I feel like I’ve barely had time to breathe this week. There are worse things that being social, but as I age travelling up the highway and back again more than once in a week really takes its toll. Still, when you’re seeing wonderful things it’s worth all the effort. And Idina Menzel’s concert at the Opera House on Wednesday night was certainly a wonderful thing.

I became enamoured with Idina when I discovered Rent in the late ’90s. Wicked came later, and then Glee, with their roles that showcased Idina’s charisma and incredible vocal prowess. So when I heard she was visiting Australia this month, I jumped at the chance to be in the audience. My expectations were high, but she didn’t disappoint.

In fact, this was one of those shows that was even better than I’d hoped for. What a personality Idina has. She was genuinely humble and so incredible open. She was free with stories of her professional and personal life, even when those memories were painful like the loss of composer and mentor Marvin Hamlisch and Rent creator Jonathan Larson.

The music took the night to another level though. It was eclectic mix touching on jazz standards, musical theatre numbers, and even pop songs. It’s rare to find a set with songs from Lady Gaga, Cole Porter, Joni Mitchell, and Peter Gabriel, but I relished it. It all worked so well. Her tender rendition of “Both Sides Now” was spellbinding, her take on Barbra Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade” invigorating, her performance of Wicked signature song “Defying Gravity” every bit as impressive without green makeup and levitation.

But personally none of them compared to the joy I felt at witnessing her singing my favourite song from my favourite musical, “Take Me or Leave Me”. As it’s a duet I never expected it to make the set, but I didn’t count on her secret weapon: a ridiculously talented Sydney audience. Normally when singers invite random strangers to the microphone the results are cringeworthy. There’s something special about a musical theatre audience though. All the guest vocalists were stellar. If Idina didn’t look so impressed I’d assume they were plants. Witnessing all these great voices coming together was a true highlight.

I’d be remiss not to mention the Sydney Symphony Orchestra too, who helped elevate Idina’s act as only a full orchestra can. What a combination.

I’m still raving about this show to anyone who’ll listen days later. It was incredible, utter magic. And for nights like that, I’ll happily accept a little post-concert fatigue!

The Sydney Opera House is pretty strict about its no-photos policy, so with that in mind I figured I’d share you one of the clips from the tour video. It’s not Sydney, but it shows how special it is when Idina works with an orchestra. Enjoy!

Monday can be a bit of a downer, unless you’ve got the right soundtrack. You can thank me later for choosing today to introduce you to Heavenly Antennas, a fun electro-pop duo from Sydney.

Their new single might be called “Misery”, but it’s far from depressing. The upbeat track features gorgeous guest vocals from Berlin-based songbird Larissa Rate.

Heavenly Antenna seem destined to make it big as they’ve landed the prestigious role of scoring this year’s light projections for the VIVID Sydney festival. If you’ve never been to Sydney, this is the time to do it. From May 24 to June 10, a rainbow-colored light show will be projected onto the sails of the Opera House, accompanied by Heavenly Antennas’ tunes. This is actually the first time Aussies have been invited to work on the initiative, so it’s a bloody big deal.

Something tells me we’ll be hearing a lot more from this talented twosome.

We’ve all got those albums that nurse us through hard times. You move on from those moments, but they always occupy a special place in your heart. Melissa Etheridge’s self-titled album was one of those discs for me. It was on my periphery on its release, but eight years later when I was a teenager pining over a relationship that never was it all clicked. Melissa’s raw emotion and the lyrics she wrote echoed the heartbreak I felt like nothing else could.

It was that connection I felt so many years ago that took me to the Sydney Opera House on Wednesday night. We’ve bought gotten older, but it was wonderful to cross paths again.

The Melissa of today is much more optimistic than the one that delivered that painful debut. That spirit was encapsulated in her opening number “Fearless Love.” She soars in those strong powerful numbers, but I was thrilled to see she can still tap into that hurt from years gone by. I was floored by a stripped back version of “Precious Pain,” one of the little known numbers from that first disc. The desperation of “I Want to Come Over” was palpable, and the anger of “Somebody Bring Me Some Water” filled the room. Newer positive songs like “Falling Up” can’t quite match the intensity of those earlier tracks, but they bring some necessary balance to her set. So too does her easy banter with the crowd. Her joy at performing in Australia after so long, at a venue she holds in such high regard, was evident.

Melissa closed the night with “Like I Do,” a number that’s everything I love about her. She rocked hard and left her heart on the stage. This tour was a long time coming for her fans, but she gave us everything we could have wished for. Hopefully we won’t be waiting so long for the next go round.

Image source: Angela George @ Wikipedia Commons

I first saw Jason Mraz live roughly seven or eight years ago. “The Remedy” was his “I’m Yours,” and acoustic performances were more common that those with a full band. I’m pretty sure I had change from $100, and that bought me not just the show but my dinner at The Vanguard.

A lot has changed since that time. The venues are bigger, the catalogue of songs is larger, and acoustic performances are increasingly rare. So it was pretty special to recapture some of what drew me to his music in the first place with Saturday night’s performance at the Sydney Opera House.

The Opera House is a long way from The Vanguard, but at least in my seats the show felt just as intimate as that first one. I wish I had some photos of my own to give you a sense of the show as I saw it, but I figured the Opera House’s usual no cameras policy would be enforced. Anyway, Jason joked easily with the crowd and his first mate and percussionist Toca. He encouraged us all to sing along and follow his lead as he scatted. He also delivered a selection of songs that should have satisfied most of the fans he’s picked up along the way.

We were treated to a generous helping of songs from his as yet unreleased album, but as he graced the stage for almost three hours I couldn’t fault that. Their acoustic treatment meant we could really listen to the unfamiliar lyrics and appreciate what he’s been building while away from the public eye.

All three studio albums were represented (although if I’m critical I would have appreciated more numbers from the first two), and the diehard fans were also treated to a few beloved rarities. I was thrilled to hear one of my personal favourites “1000 Things,” one song I never expected to make the set list. “Mr Curiosity” stripped back on the piano was another highlight, as was my all-time favourite Mraz number “You and I Both.”

There was no “The Remedy” this time, and I thought about the days when he couldn’t play a show without it. These days it’s been replaced with “I’m Yours,” a number which is still as much fun despite the radio saturation. As the extended version wound down Jason and Toca played recorded looped audio and their words rang out as they left the stage: “You are Loved.” It was more than simply the tour’s name. It was a reminder that they appreciate all the fans have given them, especially here where their music has been embraced for close to a decade. It was a lovely parting sentiment, and one that reinforced the giving way they played for us. I’m sure most people who left the Concert Hall were every bit as grateful for the night’s amazing performance.

Image source: Matthew Straubmuller @ Flickr

The Sydney Opera House has assembled some of Australia’s most influential musical talents (and one Canadian ring-in) for The Ship Song Project, an epic cover version of one of Nick Cave’s best loved songs.

If you want stars, this video’s got them. Neil Finn, Kev Carmody, Angus & Julia Stone, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, The Temper Trap, Daniel Johns, Martha Wainwright and heaps more lend their vocal stylings to this amazing clip, which is filmed against the dynamic background of the Opera House.

As marketing campaigns go, they don’t get more effective than this. I’d love to see a cleverly cut version of it on our television screens. It might just convince the naysayers that the Opera House isn’t as stuffy as they believe.