Cabaret Festival

Cabaret Festival Review: Jess Hitchcock – A Fine Romance

One of the most honest, warming, inspiring and moving performances that I have seen in a long time

One of the most honest, warming, inspiring and moving performances that I have seen in a long time

Presented by: Jess Hitchcock and Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed: 13 June 2024

Something very special happened at the Cabaret Festival on Thursday night. Jess Hitchcock performed to a sellout house with her moving show, A Fine Romance. If you don’t know who Jess Hitchcock is yet, look her up and have a listen. This show was one of the most honest, warming, inspiring and moving performances that I have seen in a long time, and for those of us who were there, it is one we will be talking about for a long time to come.

Early in the performance she shared with the audience how she was a huge classical music nerd at school — to the point she had a ‘Classical music rules, Rock Sucks’ sticker on her choir book. It was these little stories that changed A Fine Romance from a performance into a catch up with a friend you haven’t seen for a while. Jess’s personality is infectious, and she has just an engaging way to connect to her audiences. 

Jess commenced the show with an Acknowledgement to Country before launching into Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek. What a voice. Jess’s vocal tone is pure and clear, leaving you to hang on every note. The whole program was full of repertoire that has helped shape Jess life and career. For someone so young, she has performed across a vast platform of genres. Vocally, Jess is a vocal chameleon, easily switching between jazz, classical, pop, contemporary and country in the blink of an eye. Highlights of Jess’s set included Where? (From Kate Miller-Heidke’s commissioned work for Opera Australia), The Jetty (by Archie Roach), and Chandelier (by Sia).

Not only was Jess’s set list full of wonderful covers, but it included several self-composed pieces from her albums. Jess is a skilled songwriter. Her music has great depth to it and her lyrics are beautifully constructed and often pack a punch. Her song Bloodline, which is about her own struggles with her identity as a First Nation person in the music industry, is powerful. You can’t help but stop and pay attention to the messages in her songs.

Supporting Jess were three equally brilliant musicians: Chris Connelly on acoustic guitar, Annie Silva on viola and Luke Volker on piano. This trio’s musicianship was divine. Viola is not an instrument you often see or hear solo in a band, but it worked perfectly. It added a haunting depth to a lot of the set list. Connelly, Silva and Volker weaved in and out of musical genres just as effortlessly as Jess did.

Thank you Virginia Gay and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival for allowing Jess to have a platform in this year’s program to gift us with her voice. This remarkable First Nations performer has already left her mark on the music industry. After spending such a short time with Jess Hitchcock it is clear to see why artists like Paul Kelly, Tina Arena and Kate Miller-Heidke want to work with her. Next time you see Jess’s Hitchcock’s name in a program, do yourself a favour and get a ticket — I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. 

Reviewed by Ben Stefanoff

Photo credit: Claudio Raschella

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre

Season: ended

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