Jon Jackson / Walk on the Wild Side

I admit that I arrived late to Jon Jackson’s performance on Thursday night, lost in the unfamiliar territory south of the river. Waiting outside the closed doors of the performance for the next song to finish, I absently said to myself, ‘Oh, that sounds like Carmen, I wonder why they’re playing a tape of that?’.

I didn’t know who Jon Jackson was, all I knew was that he was a cabaret singer of good repute. The song finished, the door was opened for me, and I rushed to the nearest seat I could find before looking up to find the stage empty except for a single man, an accompanist, and a piano. It took a few seconds before I realised that the pitch-perfect recitation of an aria usually performed by the likes of Callas had come from Jackson himself. In a casual suit he may have been, but Jon Jackson’s ability to capture and recapture the vocal stylings of performers as diverse as Johnny Cash and the entire cast of Sweet Charity made him mesmerising to watch.

The audience clearly had a much better idea of who Jackson was than I did, with many singing along to a lot of the songs. This was due to a combination of familiarity of material as well as the intimate nature of the performance.

This was in many ways a retrospective of Jackson’s career, something brought up in his lamentation over the loss of live music venues across the city in the late 80s and early 90s, something that evoked a sea of heads in the audience nodding in agreement. In my relative youth, I reflected on the recent angst caused by the closing of The Tote, a venue one would not associate with cabaret, the bars more conducive to that style of music having been reduced to a mere handful; places where once Jackson’s style of music would have been performed regularly. I feel like I have missed out on knowing every one of these songs, performed by a brilliant vocalist who brought his own personality to everything he sang, given how performances such as this used to be held nearly every night of the week all over the city.

And of course there was a particular Australiana to his camp pitch. Before breaking into a near perfect rendition of ‘Ring of Fire’, Jackson talked about the small Queensland town he grew up in, with its annual rodeo beauty queen contest. Things got a bit bawdy with one of Noel Coward’s more fruity ditties, and, as one of his two encores, Jackson gave a rendition of the final aria from Catalini’s opera La Wally, after first introducing its fascinating context. Having heard it countless times, to then find it comes just before the heroine hurls herself into an avalanche in the Tyrolean Alps – a story hilariously recounted by Jon Jackson – listening to it now gave the song a new and astonishing edge. This is indicative of Jackson’s whole act, one that which relies, as it should, on brilliant musicianship, but with the edge of a performer who is a veteran of the business.

Jon Jackson: A Walk on the Wild Side

South Melbourne Town Hall – Ballantyne Room, 210 Bank Street, South Melbourne.

Melbourne Cabaret Festival, July 22 – 26 

For more information, please click here.

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/walk-on-the-wild-side-181797?sc=1

Skins and Sharps

Kustom Lane Gallery in Hawthorne last Sunday launched an exhibition showcasing the Sharps and Skins subculture that was unique to Melbourne in the seventies. Through the crush of those who lived it and those who venerate you can find an ultimate collection of the movement’s paraphernalia, put together with loving care by Sam Biondo.

The space creates a snap-fast immersion into a subculture that venerated the likes of Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and sparked yet another media storm over the moral turpitude of ‘the youth today’. Through the Rose Tattoo album covers and proud sartorial displays, this exhibition makes a nostalgic smile play on the lips of every quiff sporting Sharpie, Skinhead and rocker with that distinctive Melbourne pride.

The exhibition, featuring artists such as Steven Pricter and David Mellows, sports sketches and paintings of the proponents of the movement, revelling in a homemade quality that is the essence of any lasting subculture. The hair, the shoes, and in this case the cardigans, are no laughing matter when it comes to showcasing your style and affiliations. Alongside the sketches are raised shoes, newspaper articles and album covers that all had some association with a movement that was seen as, and did have, a brutish side to it, with violent clashes between the gangs leading to the subculture’s ultimate demise. Most interesting is a collection of potboiler novels featuring Skins and Sharps, their covers with dangerous looking youths on them staring out at you through the glass cabinets.

This show is certainly a labour of love, and the attention to detail is infectious. By the end you’ll find yourself squint eyed, carefully studying the magazine articles and music charts as much as the veterans who were actually there.

Beat Magazine, July 7th Issue, 2010