There are some occasions when you go to a show, and you realise you’ve seen the best version of something you’re ever going to. It happened to me with Our Country’s Good at the Burton Taylor, and now it’s happened with (Everything I Do) I Do It for You at the Old Fire Station.
In the same way that Wertenbaker’s piece took on its own crackling life-force within the close confines of the Playhouse’s Studio theatre, Will Barlett and Kate Mullins brought extraordinary fluidity and poise to a most unlikely of candidates in the Old Fire Station - Bryan Adams as a jazz standard? Yes please.
This juxtaposition epitomises the verve and freedom with which the duo approach their music making, and the relationship between Will’s softly virtuoso piano playing and Kate’s powerfully gentle vocal range: there is real depth and breadth to their abilities, and they aren’t bashful about exploring what they can do with them.
After a few numbers with sheet music (including Will’s latest arrangement of a Philip Larkin poem), they dispensed with the dots and explained that musicians listen, play and communicate better without the barrier of a written line. (Everything I do) was paired with She Works Hard for the Money and introduced as the preferred wedding dance songs of two audience members that were vetoed by their partners. We all commiserated. Then, to demonstrate how it can be done, a completely unrehearsed Foggy Day demonstrated the creation of something beautiful and spontaneous. They seem happiest when finding new angles and new routes through musical forms and patterns, finding a path from one song, chord sequence, key change or genre to another. Never mind if they’ve ever been put together before - ideally they haven't.
It was a very intimate and inclusive gig - early on, we in the audience were encouraged to respond audibly to the bits we liked, or didn’t like, and Will explained the difference in feeling for them between a jazz club (not so much fourth wall) and a theatre (nice lighting and fewer distractions, but a bit intimidating with the invisible audience).
They continued to gently hammer on that fourth wall throughout the night, the continuous work to level the relationship between performers and audience really helping to show how this was a living, evolving and multi-participatory event - the more we worked to engage with the music and the performance, the more we heard and the better it went.
I left feeling that I had been part of something new, different and really worthwhile. This wasn’t jazz as esoteric, remote and bizarre, it was a familiar, immediate and fun. I’m really happy that I went, and look forward to going on another musical caravan with them again.