With some time to myself today it seemed the perfect moment to actually sit down and write about the exceptional concert I saw in Sydney last Friday night. No, not Adele. You wouldn’t know it judging by all the media hype, but Sydney actually welcomed two more international stars that night: Jewel and Don Henley.

As a woman of a certain age, I was pretty excited about seeing folk songbird live. Sadly a dinner that ran overtime and some unexpectedly long lines outside the new ICC Sydney Theatre meant we were a little late, but what I caught was just what I’d hoped it would be. Just Jewel, who looks like she hasn’t aged a day since the ‘90s, her acoustic guitar, and that sublime voice of hers. I loved hearing hits from Pieces of You as stripped back as they were on that original album. “Foolish Games” had me welling up. I also developed a new appreciation for “Intuition,” a song I’d always hated because it seemed so overproduced. The acoustic mode really let its cutting lyrics shine. A special moment between Jewel and her young son, dueting on a song sung for generations in her family, tugged at the heart strings. She really made the most of her all-too-brief time on stage, sharing stories and songs with such warmth. There was even yodelling! I really hope to see her back in Australia soon, because she was superb.

After seeing The Eagles a couple of times before Glenn Frey’s untimely death, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Don’s solo show. I knew the songs would be good, but I wondered whether the Eagles’ tracks would seem a little lacking without the other Eagles voices in the mix. But Don knows what he’s doing. He assembled one of the tightest bands I’ve seen in some time, including three superb backup singers my husband recognised from The Voice US. He opened with a song from her latest album Cass County, “Seven Bridges Road,” a stripped back country number which really showcased the vocal talents of all on stage.



While this show was about touring Cass County, Don knows what fans want to hear. He promised us he’d do the occasional song for him, but plenty of songs for us, and he did. The set drew heavily from his days with The Eagles; wisely he stuck to those tracks where he originally sang lead vocals, ensuring they sounded just right to our ears. I was especially thrilled to hear “The Last Resort,” a song that Don admitted he hadn’t played for decades before embarking on these solo shows. Tracks from the ‘80s were also celebrated. Despite their advancing years they sounded so fresh, especially “The End of the Innocence” with its lyrics so resonant in the time of Trump. There were surprises too; I’m not sure anyone expected Don Henley to launch into “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

It took until the second encore for Don to address the elephant in the room and chat about Glenn Frey, his longtime collaborator who we so sadly lost last year. He told us how he missed him before launching into two of the songs they penned together: “Wasted Time” and “Desperado.” Such painful songs made more poignant under the circumstances. We took a moment, remembered, and then danced. It’s what Glenn would have wanted I think. “All She Wants to Do is Dance” was the perfect closer for Don Henley’s show, a performance that was about nostalgia but also celebrating an artist that continues to be at the top of his game.

Dance music fans are in for a treat this November when the Mystery Mark festival makes its debut in Sydney.

Joel Fletcher, Yolanda Be Cool, Bombs Away, Uberjak’d, SCNDL, and Brooke Evers are among the big names scheduled to take the stage.

Mystery Mark hits the Sydney Showground on November 19. It’s a 15+ event, but there’ll be licensed facilities for the adults in the crowds. VIP and early bird tickets are available now from the Mystery Mark website.

Image used with permission from Paris is Patient

I can scarcely believe a couple of weeks have gone by since I caught Megan Hilty’s performance at the Theatre Royal, but it was a performance so strong that my memory has barely faded.

The press releases surrounding her maiden Australian tour promised a journey through the Great American Songbook, but her set featured much more than standards. She opened with “Keep Moving the Line,” from the TV series Smash, the first thing that brought her to my attention. As an ardent fan of the series, I was thrilled to hear more of its songs peppering the set, such as “Mr. And Mrs. Smith,” “Let Me Be Your Star,” and the breathtaking “Second Hand White Baby Grand.”

Most of Megan’s career has seen her on the stage rather than the small screen, so it was only fitting that her Broadway turns were acknowledged too with “Popular” from Wicked, “Backwoods Barbie” from 9 to 5, and “Suddenly, Seymour” from the role that got away in Little Shop of Horrors. Stories like the incidences surrounding the part endeared Megan to the already enamored crowd. She spoke in glowing terms of meeting Dolly Parton when cast in her musical and working alongside Idina Menzel and Katherine McPhee and regaled us of personal stories of life with her daughter and husband, the very dishy Brian Gallagher who plays guitar in her exceptional band.

There were the promised standards like “Almost Like Being in Love,” “That’s Life,” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” a lovely nod to her time channelling Marilyn as Ivy Lynn in Smash. Don Henley’s “Heart of the Matter” didn’t quite seem to gel with the jazz and show tunes, but it’s such a great song I didn’t really mind. Closing with “Rainbow Connection,” a song she plays nightly for her daughter, left us all feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

No matter what Megan treated us to, it was exquisite. She has such a stunning voice, and her Broadway training sees her connecting to the songs in a way few artists do when singing covers.

This was a fleeting visit for Megan, who had to catch a plane the next day to attend the Tony Awards. She assured us she loved our city and wants to come back for a longer stay. I hope she’s a woman of her word, because I think I speak on behalf of everyone at the Theatre Royal when I say we’d welcome her back with open arms.

The venue didn’t allow photography, so here’s a video so you can all see how amazing she is!

When I was in my late teens and early 20s, one Matchbox Twenty or Rob Thomas show was never enough. I’d see multiple gigs, never wanting the tour to be over. They were so much fun, but the sets rarely changed from night to night. I’d get excited about the odd cover that was different and insist that was worth the price of admission alone.

So when I bought tickets for Rob Thomas’ State Theatre show, despite having plans to catch him at the Opera House Forecourt, I expected a similar scenario. What I got was two completely shows this tour, both wonderful in their own way. After the party atmosphere of the Opera House show, it was wonderful to have a quieter night and enjoy the intimate and personal vibe of the State Theatre show.

Rob downsized his band to a trio and delivered stripped back versions of songs, ensuring their lyrics came to the fore. It was so exciting to hear a new complexion to upbeat tracks I’d heard a couple of nights before like “This Is How a Heart Breaks” and “Lonely No More.” I also loved the chance to hear the songs that didn’t make Wednesday night’s performance. “Heaven Help Me” from The Great Unknown probably would have been lost in the electric set, but it was perfect for this more intimate evening. “Sunday Morning, New York Blue,” a track lifted not from an album but the Someday EP, was another welcome new addition.

But for a girl whose love for Rob’s music began with Matchbox Twenty, the number of tracks that came from his band was really exciting. Ordinarily Rob plays just a couple of Matchbox songs, preferring to stick to the solo material. However, the stars aligned on Friday night and we heard everything from hits like “Bright Lights,” “Disease,” and “Bent” to the moody “You Won’t Be Mine,” an album track from Mad Season.

Anyone who’s read this blog for a while knows I love an acoustic show. Jumping around and dancing to a band turned up to 11 is a blast, but it rarely moves me as much as sitting down listening to songs stripped back to their core. Add in personal stories about the origin of those songs and I’m sold. I’ve seen Rob Thomas perform many times, and I’m sure I’ll see him many more, but Friday night’s acoustic show is the one that will stand out from the rest. It was perfection.

Image source: own photos

I feel like I’ve been floating on a bit of a cloud since Sunday night. Not even a workload so heavy that I haven’t been able to write up a review until now has been able to penetrate my post-concert haze. That is the feeling you get when you leave one of the very best concerts you’ve ever seen. That’s how I feel after witnessing the first State Theatre show of Prince’s Piano and a Microphone tour.

In true rock star style, Prince had us waiting half an hour after the time the show was scheduled to start before gracing us with his presence. Despite sitting alone, a result of the very strict two-limit ticket that forced my party of three to split up, I didn’t feel lonely. I was surrounded by amazing people whose enthusiasm for the Purple One matched my own. As we recounted tales of tours past and watched the officious security guards enforcing the “no photos” rule, the time flew. Certainly all was forgiven by the time the words, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate this thing we call life” echoed from the speakers. Prince stood dramatically in silhouette at the back of the stage, pausing for applause before taking his place at the piano and launching into “Let’s Go Crazy,” a rollicking good time which set the tone for the evening.

This was exactly the intimate show I was hoping for. With just his voice, a kaleidoscopic projection screen, and a piano with synchronised synth strings triggered by the keys to give some songs a little more depth, Prince put on a show that reinforced what a special artist he is. The set list spanned the breadth of his discography, from early 80s songs like “Controversy” to “RockNRoll LoveAffair” and “Black Muse,” two songs from his new album HitNRun Phase Two. Covers of “Stand!” from Sly and the Family Stone and “A Case of You” from Joni Mitchell paid tribute to his influences.

Prince has always been an enigmatic figure, but I felt the walls came down on this tour. His version of “Love Thy Will Be Done,” which he wrote for Martika, was truly breathtaking. “I Love U In Me” was just as sexy as we all hoped it would be. We squealed with delight as Prince invited a dancing female fan up on stage to groove by his piano during “Raspberry Beret.” He again called for dancing reinforcements during “Kiss,” when he spotted a young boy boogying with some of the fastest feet I’ve ever seen. I was sure he might trip over as he danced frenetically to the obvious amusement of the Purple One. He invited us to sing the backup parts for “Cream,” and admonished us playfully when we would sing off key or encroach on his parts, insisting we’d need to start that bit again.

After seeing Prince perform with a full band in 2012, it was so exciting to see him bring a different complexion to these songs. There was a wistfulness about “I Could Never Take the Place Of Your Man” that I’d never heard before. “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” had a soul that had me stamping my feet in appreciation. I’ve always considering Prince one of the most underappreciated guitarists of our time, but he’s also breathtaking on the piano. I marvelled as “The Question of U” morphed into Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” On his third and final encore, Prince treated us to “Purple Rain,” the perfect song to close out an incredible night.

I have never spent $400 on a concert ticket before and I listened to plenty of people who said I was mad to do it this time. But this show was worth every single cent. I expected something magical for the price, and Prince delivered in spades. I feel so blessed to have been in the audience of this very special show, one of the very best I have ever seen and am likely to see.

Image source: own photo

It’s a big call to name someone “the voice of a generation.” It’s the sort of thing you typically read on marketing posters, knowing it’s about selling tickets more than the truth. But if there is an artist that’s earned that mantle, I think it’s Peter Cetera. My dad, the source of almost all of my early music knowledge, didn’t own one of his albums, yet the distinctive sound of his voice is one that’s synonymous with my childhood. I was reminded of that as the Sydney Symphony Orchestra took the seated crowd at the State Theatre on Friday night through a medley of his hits before the man himself came out. Whether with Chicago or out on his own, Peter Cetera truly was a musical force in the ‘80s. He still occupies a very special place in my heart today.

When Peter stepped out, my excitement was at fever pitch, even though I didn’t know the song “Restless Heart” that he started with. It gave me a little time to calm down before he brought out the big gun, “Glory of Love.” I could scarcely believe three songs in I was going to hear that song, the song that my husband and I danced our “first dance” to at our wedding, but there it was. When your discography is as loaded as Peter Cetera’s, you don’t need to wait for an encore to play the hits. And they kept on coming, all with the expert backing of the Sydney Symphony making these special songs even richer.

It’d be remiss of me to suggest this was the perfect concert. At 71 years of age, Peter’s voice is starting to show some limitations. He can still hit the high notes he’s famous for, but he can’t sustain them as he once could. When he’s in his comfort zone, he sounds just as good as he ever did though. He also cleverly surrounds himself with talented young musicians who can now do what he once did. Whether he’s singing a duet like “After All” with his gorgeous young backup singer Tania Hancheroff or sharing vocals on a song like “Hard Habit to Break” with his guitarist Chris Rodriguez, he knows when he needs reinforcements to make the songs sound as they should.

Peter Cetera’s passion also impressed me. He’s probably sung these songs more times than he can remember, yet he seems to genuinely enjoy sharing them with an audience. He sang with such enthusiasm, truly giving us everything he had. He also took the time to share fascinating facts about the songs and himself with us. Did you know “Glory of Love” was originally written for Rocky 4? Or that he wrote “You’re the Inspiration” for Kenny Rogers, who lost a serious hit when he passed on the track? Neither did I, and as a music trivia buff I loved discovering this stuff.

With a back catalogue as rich as Peter Cetera’s, it may seem impossible to hear every song you want, but I did. Even songs that I hadn’t remembered he did, like “After All” with Cher, and “No Explanation” from Pretty Woman. As he took his final bow after two encores, I clapped until my hands were sore.

Image source: Wikipedia Commons

Last Thursday I went to those concerts that put me on a real high. I’ll be honest with you and admit that I’m still on that high so many days later. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write about this evening impartially, but I might just have calmed down enough to come off as more of a music blogger and less of a teenage girl. I might be in my mid-thirties, but that part of me is always going to come out when I see Joshua Radin, especially when I do it VIP.

When Joshua announced he would offer VIP tickets for his latest Australian tour, the first in more than four years, I jumped at them. I couldn’t wait to meet this singer-songwriter that I’ve admired for his entire career, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how special the experience would be. Around 30 die-hard fans were ushered into the Metro at a little after five to see Joshua standing on stage, playing one of my favourite songs “Closer,” from the first album. Joshua told us that he wanted to treat us to stuff we wouldn’t hear at the main show, which I really appreciated. The six-song soundcheck was more than generous. “Vegetable Car,” my husband’s favourite song which Joshua pulled out on the request of another fan despite being unsure whether he could remember the lyrics, was another highlight. It was also thrilling to hear a couple of brand new, unrecorded songs. I didn’t take any photos; it was one of those times where you just want to soak things in and have them just for you.

We were told we could get three pieces of merchandise signed, which equated to six for me because I brought my husband along. However, Joshua was actually happy to sign whatever we had, so those posters we were handed as we walked in also earned his signature. He took his time chatting to everyone individually, really paying attention to what we were saying and engaging us all. We never felt rushed, and we all felt special. I was so glad to be able to tell him what his album Wax Wings meant to me, and tickled pink when he complimented me on my skirt.

After the meet and greet we were shown a special VIP section of the Metro where we could sit for the evening. The plush seats and excellent view from those seats added further value to those VIP tickets, as did the company. I swear I’ve never been to a show with such wonderful people. We chatted with such interesting folks, not just about Joshua about our careers and families and other music we loved. They definitely made the time between acts feel much shorter.

Tara Favell was the first of those acts, a sweet young country-pop singer with a sparkly guitar. Her original songs reminded me a little of early Taylor Swift, and I felt for her when I spotted people near the front playing on their phones. Note to music lovers: if you want to stand near a stage, maybe give the artists the respect to at least appear to be paying attention. Her cover versions of “Thinking About Loud” and “I’m Yours” engaged the crowd a little more, but sadly their minds seemed to be elsewhere.

David Lazarus had an easier time of things. Frankly he was a gorgeous man, and that always helps at a show when most of the crowd are female. But his stories about the love he has for his sisters had every girl in the place swooning. He had a great rich tone, and serious guitar chops. His closing medley of popular songs old and new had everyone cheering. I became an instant fan, and plan on checking out more of his music.

But Joshua Radin was the man we all came to see. Despite being here to promote his album Onward and Sideways, his set took on a journey through his entire catalogue. In fact if anything it was heaviest on his debut album, after fans at the soundcheck told him they’d love to hear the early material. I sat in raptures, hanging onto his every word as he explained the circumstances behind the songs and listening to them with new understanding. After a backing band that felt too big for his songs last tour, it was refreshing to see him playing with just two other musicians. They gave the music the right amount of intimacy. My favourite Joshua Radin song “You’ve Got Growing Up To Do” was a real highlight, but “Winter,” “Only You,” and the jubilant” Belong” was also really special. Hell, the whole concert was special. His cover of “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright,” the first song he learned to play on a guitar, capped things off beautifully.

I left the Metro bouncing off the walls and I still feel those same butterflies as I write about that night. Joshua assured us he’ll return sooner next time, and I can only hope he keeps his word. Because personally, I’m ready to see the show again.

Image source: own photos

The closure of Lizotte’s at Kincumber hit me hard. That venue spoiled me, got me used to seeing intimate shows and enjoying great food and wines while artists played. So I was thrilled to discover a similar vibe at Venue 505 in Surry Hills on Saturday night.

It wasn’t quite up to the standard of my beloved Lizotte’s, but this small room with comfy couches and tables for dining has real promise. It’s more about bar food than three-course menus, and my steak was rarer than I asked for. But the wine list was inspired and reasonably priced, especially by Sydney standards. You can’t book tables either, although arriving at 6 when doors opened there was no chance of missing out on a great spot.

As I get older it takes something special to lure me into the city. But I couldn’t resist the promise of Jack Carty and Jordan Millar playing “intimate and by request.” Jordan Millar’s album Cold Lights on Curious Minds was one of my favourite albums of 2013, and I loved Jack Carty’s set warming up for Josh Pyke last year. Having said that, I wouldn’t consider myself particularly familiar with their music. I’ve loved what I heard, but I certainly wasn’t hankering to hear particular tunes like the folks eager to write their favourite songs down and put them in the request box by the stage.

The thing is though, at a gig like this you don’t need to know the songs. It’s not like going to see some band they play on classic rock stations where everyone sings along. Especially in an intimate setting like Venue 505, these songs should be listened to, their lyrics heard. Jordan Miller was up first. I haven’t listened to his album in a while, but his set was a powerful reminder that I need to dig it out. There were a few songs I remembered from that recording, like “Rain on the Ground” and some new favourites to discover like “Advice from Beyonce.”

All of the Jack Carty songs I heard were new to me, but that was exciting. Really a show like this is the perfect introduction to musicians, because you’re going to hear a set that’s made up of the songs that fans love. I adored the solo sets both artists delivered, but true magic was made when Jordan joined Jack for the final tracks of the night. How wonderful to experience two such talented singer-songwriters, stripped back with just acoustic guitars, singing such beautiful songs.

And how wonderful to do it at such a great venue. It takes a lot to lure me to Sydney these days, but this show was well worth braving the cold of winter.

Image source: own photo

If an international artist will play anywhere in Australia, it’s Sydney. While most will make it to Melbourne and Brisbane, it’s becoming increasingly common for musicians to announce a single Sydney date on a promo tour before jetting off to the next international locale. Consequently more out-of-towners are making the long-haul trek to Sydney to see their favourite bands and singers.

Sydney’s an exciting place to see live music, but with the highest cost of living in the country a musical holiday to the New South Wales capital can also be expensive. Living on the Central Coast, I regularly make the trip, so I wanted to share my budget-saving tips with you all.

Book Your Accommodation Early

You might be tempted to wait for a last-minute deal, but on big concert nights the earlier you book, the better. You’re competing for Sydney hotel rooms with music lovers from other states and across New South Wales, along with regular holidaymakers and businesspeople, so it’s easy to see why the best rooms fill quickly. I’ve noticed prices jump by $100 to $200 as concert dates near, so dilly-dallying doesn’t pay.

Don’t be Afraid to Compromise

Photo by Miller Wu via Trover.com

You might have your heart set on the Novotel Rockford right next to Qantas Credit Union Arena, but it’s not your only option. The light rail’s Paddy’s Market stop is right outside the venue, so you could easily book a hotel near any of its other stops. It also runs from Central Station, so you could also catch a train to Central from any other local station. This opens up more accommodation options which may be cheaper, especially closer to your show.

Hostels like Cambridge Lodge are also basic but clean, and they’ll do the job if you simply need a place to crash post-gig. If you don’t need frills, why pay for them?

Save on Pre-Gig Nosh

If you’re looking for a special meal before a show, by all means splash out on dinner at ARIA or Quay. But if you’d rather save your cash for merch, read on.

Circular Quay has some of the most expensive restaurants in the city, but it’s not the only option when you’re heading to the Opera House. If you aren’t fussed about the waterfront views, head to the Rocks. There are some great cafes and pubs serving up yummy meals for far less.

Darling Harbour is a popular choice for people heading to Qantas Credit Union Arena, but the meals are overpriced for what you get. You needn’t resort to the Macca’s next door though. Instead head a block back to Chinatown for affordable, authentic Asian cuisine.

Options are a little limited around Allphones Arena, but you needn’t resort to Olympic Park’s overpriced pub fare or even more expensive fast food inside the venue. I find the market stalls and food trucks that pop up around concerts the best bet. The gozleme van is my personal pick.

This post was written as part of the #HipmunkCityLove project. What ways do you love saving money when seeing shows in Sydney?

Sydney PR company Rare Finds and Mountain Goat Beer are encouraging more music lovers to discover new bands with the launch of their free-entry indie club nights. On the last Friday of every month an exciting line-up of emerging artists will take the stage at Enmore’s Sly Fox from 8 pm.

It all kicks off this Friday, April 24, with Jenny Broke the Window, Food Court, Hedge Fund, and Winston Surfshirt. With no cover charge and a full weekend to follow for recovery, there’s no excuse for staying home!

Image source: Newtown Graffiti @ Flickr