Concert: Ute Lemper



There are some people I would pay to see even if they sat on stage and read a phone book. Just out of sheer curiosity to see what they would do with it. Ute Lemper is one of those people to me. And when you become a fan, you buy their CDs and you put up with their eccentricities like that last never ending track on the album of Punishing Kiss or all that annoying screeching on the Grapefruit Moon track on Blood and Feathers. On the other hand someone recently told me that they no longer see her shows as "her head is so far up her own arse that it all feels like a bit of an ego trip".

I saw the Ute with Alice at the Shaw Theatre Thursday night and he definitely agreed with that last sentiment. And given the number of people getting up and leaving during the course of the show maybe this wasn't an isolated view. Well the show started late and the seats at the Shaw toward the rear of the theatre resemble QANTAS economy so maybe they just had to get up and have a stretch.

Anyway the late start was attributed to some ticket printing error which issued some tickets with a start time of 8pm rather than 7.30. So to please nobody the theatre started fifteen minutes late and so people kept filing in until after 8pm. This is good enough reason why tickets should never be mailed to people. If you pick them up at the box office you wouldn't have to worry about misprinted start times. But I digress. When it did get going Ute started with a great version of Piaf's Milord which sounded like the version on Blood and Feathers so that was helpful in framing what to expect - German jazz basically. Alice who was not familiar with this Album was none the wiser...

It didn't help that the in-between monologues were written for an American audience as well. Perhaps all that time living in New York has made her not realise that with his limited achievements and general incompetence the world has managed to get around the fact George Bush is still in the White House. In between obscure references to American politics, there were references to yin and yang and the moon and the ocean and the navel and the moon and the yin and the ocean and the moon and so on etcetera. It all became an incoherent blur that you just kept hoping the next song would start.

And some of the songs were great. Highlights included her version of Surabaya Johnny and her performance of a few Jaques Brel songs. When she sings it is an amazing experience. When we get the jazz asides it can be a mixed bag. Then again perhaps given the technical problems with sound, lighting and acknowledged jet lag - the result of flying in late from Greece due to a 24 hour strike - perhaps we weren't seeing the best possible performance.

Leaving the theatre Alice suggested that since he wasn't that fond of Germans or jazz, it was never going to be a memorable night for him. I on the other hand had a great time. It isn't that often you get to see a scary German woman get up and sing and screech and make trouble. And if you are a fan of Ute Lemper that's exactly what you came to see... And you got it. Well maybe a bit more singing next time... Her new album is out from later this month. I'll be getting it too dammit.

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