Another magic night from some of Adelaide’s best musicians
Presented by Release Creative and GWB Entertainment
Reviewed 20th February 2021
In 1968 a relatively unknown Irish singer-songwriter walked into a recording studio in New York, with a bunch of session musicians, few of whom he knew, and produced one of the greatest albums of all time. The singer was Van Morrison, and the album was Astral Weeks.
Adelaide-based musician Max Savage has a broad repertoire of both covers and originals. But he is also known for his soaring interpretation of this seminal album. Since 2015 he has performed the album three times, including a special performance in 2018 on the album’s actual 50th birthday. This Fringe, he goes for performance number four!
With seven outstanding musicians on stage with Savage, the rich instrumentation of the album was given free rein. Tony De Mond on flute and percussion; Rowan Harding on saxophone; Tom Boehm on fiddle; Aaron Nash on piano; Steve Pederson on guitar; Josh Baldwin on percussion; and the ubiquitous Lyndon Gray on double bass.
From the opening notes of Gray’s bass on Astral Weeks, Savage and the band give it their all. Never content to merely parrot the music, they colour each number with their own interpretation, whilst staying true to the original. Beside You found Savage at his most viscerally poetic, and this mood stayed around for Sweet Thing, which then segued into a funked-up version of Cypress Avenue. The Way Young Lovers Do, and Madame George both gave ample opportunity for some virtuoso musicianship from the band. Savage introduced Ballerina with one of his personable stories about seeing Morrison perform in Montreux, when he finished with this number. Slim Slow Slider, possibly the most difficult song on the album to tweak, was presented with warmth, energy, and a little touch of country from Pederson.
The band performed four more numbers, after finishing the album: And it Stoned Me, Gypsy, Into the Mystic, and the ethereal Listen to the Lion, a number which Morrison himself often finishes on. A perfect finale, it fades out in a way which leaves the music somehow dangling in the air. A promise of more to come.
Every time Savage interprets Astral Weeks, something slightly magical happens. Always remaining respectful and duly deferential, he avoids hagiography: he and the band make it their own.
The Queens Theatre has been set up as a gorgeous venue for this year’s Fringe, with a massive line-up of shows. Oh, and a special shout-out to the delightful group of people who let a Nancy-No-Friends reviewer sit at their table and enjoy the experience with them.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Season ended – One Night Only
Rating out of 5: 5