Presented by Brigitte Baden-Rennie (Mosaic Cat – UK; Emma Knights Productions – Australia)
Reviewed 18th February, 2018
The playlist is impeccable. Hard-core Peggy Lee fans cannot complain about repertoire choice, presentation or musical style as Brigitte Baden-Rennie (beautifully accompanied by Dave McEvoy on keyboard and Jenna Bonavita on acoustic double bass) performs her intelligent and entertaining homage to the great jazz/pop vocal stylist.
Baden-Rennie sings seventeen songs, some written by Lee, all sung by Lee, and some of them not very well-known, except to rusted-on Lee enthusiasts. Yes, she sings Fever. And Black Coffee and Is That All There Is? But Baden-Rennie has researched thoroughly and includes a number of obscure Peggy Lee numbers too. She intersperses songs with biographical material about the singer, her origins, her career of six decades, and her personal life. This wealth of material helps to contextualise the songs; her acting skill keeps this information lively and interesting.
Dressed in flowing full-length black, only relieved by a gold brooch and necklace, Baden-Rennie’s tall frame dominates the room. She makes no attempt to look like Peggy Lee, or to copy her vocal tone. Baden-Rennie’s own rich voice strays further south than Lee’s, but her timbre is ideal for the Lee playlist, and her musicianship recreates the Lee “feel” to each song.
Bass and keyboard accompany her voice with balance and sensitivity. In the slower, blues-based numbers, they play with restraint, but in the more up-tempo songs, they add verve and smart jazz licks. There was great cross-phrasing on a driving version of It’s Alright With Me, and Ellington’s chromatically demanding I’m Gonna Go Fishin’.
The size and layout of the Gallery Room in the National Wine Centre is terrific for this kind of performance; however, its blackout blinds could not handle the amount of daylight at a 2:00pm performance, with disastrous results to the lighting plot. Still, the spirit of Peggy Lee is honoured in this elegant performance, and the sound of Baden-Rennie’s emotionally raw performance of When The World Was Young (Gérard/Mercer) will haunt you for some time to come.
Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson
Rating out of 5: 4.5 stars
Venue: National Wine Centre – Gallery Room
Season: 17th – 17th March, 2018
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: Full Price: $30.00 BankSA customers: $23:25