The moment that Harry Baulderstone and Marcus Ryan’s show started, the audience knew there was nothing hazy about this winter night.
The Arkaba’s Top Room bustled with anticipation as patrons eagerly awaited the classic tunes from folk legends Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Dual projectors framed the stage and the lighting created an intimate ambience despite the large crowd. A documentary stirred, featuring excerpts from an ABC interview with Peter Goers and projection from March performances of Feelin’ Groovy. On screen, the artists discussed the inspiration behind this Cabaret Fringe production and their muses. They appeared seamlessly on stage and, with no verbal introduction, Marcus Ryan’s electric guitar quickly warmed up the room. Following the applause, there was no banter. I Am A Rock followed with yet another lyrical reference, befitting of the season.
The frontmen introduced themselves as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Their patter was succinct with a dash of humour, indicating that the show was clearly focussed on the music. Baulderstone and Ryan’s voices were reminiscent of the folk duo’s. The poetry and imagery particularly shone through in America. I could clearly hear a person singing along to every word, evidently enjoying the talents of these two promising young musicians.
Later in the show we’ve learned that they met as teenagers, similar to their muses. In 2012, they sang as choristers in the Catholic Schools Music Festival. Baulderstone admitted to being the brainchild of the show’s title and quotes that he “thinks it’s great”.
This production featured a backing band of three musicians — Alex Flood (drums), Dylan Kuerschner (Bass) and David Goodwin (Keys) – who complimented the duo and added a beautiful ambience to the show. They honoured their role as a rhythm section supporting the intricate vocal harmonies with a solid groove, and interweaving the melodies with tasteful solos that were restrained, never competing with the frontmen. I loved the enviable Nord keys.
The lighting and front-of-house mix captured the ambience extremely well. It is so nice to go to a gig and not have to put earplugs in because the sound engineer knows how to mix a live gig! The dynamics were excellent throughout the show with the exception of the documentary, which I presume is related to the mix on the documentary itself.
Baulderstone and Ryan’s intonation was fair. While their voices blended beautifully together, some solo lines needed polishing. With experience comes refinement of their craft, and their evident dedication and rawness made up for any shortcomings in vocal technique. What they did exceptionally well was listen to one another.
The production had all the hallmarks of professionalism; the musicians were well-prepared and, as a patron, I felt that I got more than my money’s worth. The communication between the singers and the band was excellent! Each singer and musician seemed so natural in their on-stage environment and it drew the crowd in effortlessly.
Repertoire ebbed and flowed in mood and tempo celebrating the timelessness of the discography. In the nostalgia of Homeward Bound and Slip Slidin’ Away the singers’ voices blended eloquently. Trivia and audience interaction were also thrown into the mix with their tribute to the Everly Brothers, idols of Simon and Garfunkel. Wakeup Little Suzie and Bye Bye love almost needed a dance floor for all of the folks dancing in their seats around me.
Both frontmen were proficient singers as well as experts on guitar, Markus even showed off his ukulele skills in the melancholy El Condor Pasa. However, At The Zoo left no time for patrons to wallow in sadness as they quickly picked up the tempo again to highlight the excellent rhythm section. Old Friends allowed for a sentimental moment while the band had a break. It painted a beautiful picture. The audience hung on every word and Harry’s melodic guitar-picking.
Not only hits were played, but also tracks from the Tom and Jerry era. Hey schoolgirl provided fitting contrast with its Rockabilly vibe. At times, opportunities for further humour were missed, but as Baulderstone and Ryan develop their stage craft, their jokes, segues, and audience engagement will improve. One of the challenges of playing in winter is keeping a stringed instrument in tune, unfortunately, one of the acoustic guitars was out of tune and this affected Kathy’s Song. But the benefits of having a well-prepared production is that there are many moments to celebrate, Scarborough Fair was particularly entrancing and Leaves That Are Green highlighted the lesser-known songs in the repertoire. Like many of Simon and Garfunkel’s songs, the lyrics are poetic and a bittersweet metaphor of love.
The introduction to Sound of Silence was met with rousing applause. It was a wise choice to leave this classic so late in the show. The harmonies were haunting and they felt like a warm cup of cocoa on a winter’s day. Mrs Robinson was a hit among the crowd and it was a pristine arrangement reminiscent of the recording. This song was an overt tribute to prominent ABC Adelaide personality, Peter Goers. Their performance of My Little Town struck a nerve with the patrons and I got a sense that many of the song selections represented a deeper meaning for these young singers. There was testament and integrity to their lyrical delivery and this is their strongest asset.
The hit Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water was captivating with some audience members standing in appreciation of Ryan’s interpretation.
Then it was Late In The Evening and the groove capped off a fabulous night which showcased a wealth of talent. Baulderstone and Ryan graciously thanked their grateful audience, many of which were patrons of the March Fringe shows. The final songs The Boxer and Cecilia were met with a unanimous standing ovation.
This is an act that will unlikely wither with the wind and fade any time soon. Keep an eye out for their next production as it is sure to be a quality one.
Feelin’ Groovy – Arkaba Hotel –
Harry Baulderstone & Marcus Ryan
25 June 2017 – 7.00pm – $25
Categories: Expressivo (Performance Reviews)