David Campbell and John Bucchino in Concert
QPAC & Queensland Cabaret Festival
QPAC Concert Hall
June 6 2014
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward
These two talented entertainers are old friends and it shows. There is such a delightful energy between David Campbell and John Bucchino. Whether or not the music is familiar, this is an enjoyable show and a great, relaxed night out.
I love the music, which we got to know very well during Bucchino’s last visit to Oz in 2011, when he joined Georgia Stitt and Jason Robert Brown for a tour of concerts and masterclasses. Bucchino’s CD It’s Only Life has been a favourite in the car ever since and if you consider for a moment how much driving I do that is high praise indeed! The new album, a collaboration between Bucchino and Campbell is out now (and has joined the collection in the car). During Bucchino’s Brisbane masterclass it was fascinating to hear a bit of background – the secrets behind the songs – and observe cabaret magic happen as Bucchino practically handed the vocalists the keys to unlock each song. This we see happening again, but it’s our mate, David Campbell, sharing the intricacies and intimacies of each story, with the perfect example being the opening number, Sweet Dreams. This is a catch-in-your-throat song if ever we heard one. It’s one of my favourite sad songs of all time. It sets a slightly sombre tone for the evening, giving die-hard fans the chance to reimagine the bittersweet stories behind the lyric and newbies (many, I suspect, being television morning show fans) just enough gentle time perhaps to adjust any pre-conceived notions. The mood lifts with the upbeat number that follows, and so begins our rollercoaster evening, punctuated by some super slick shtick and very funny apologies from both Bucchino and Campbell for their over-indulgence in comfortable chat and private jokes to make us feel as if we might be in one or the other’s living room.
I enjoyed the pair’s easy repartee, and felt it added to the intimacy of the show. My mum, and others I suspect, might have preferred to hear more of the music! If you know Bucchino you’ll know his music is not exactly all-Broadway and it’s not quite “cabaret” either, but what is that now, anyway? (Campbell explains his take on contemporary cabaret to arts writer, Elissa Blake, here). It’s somewhere in between, and it gives someone like Campbell the perfect opportunity to flex his performance muscles. He’s a born entertainer – we knew this already – but it’s in the portrayal of a character from Bucchino’s Broadway show, A Catered Affair, that we see once again Campbell’s natural acting ability. He steps forward and slips into the role of the father of a reluctant bride and I make a mental note: tell Lisa (Campbell) to get this guy back into musical theatre. (And I do, immediately after the show via Instagram). Campbell even references Shout! The Legend of the Wild One and for half a second it seems that were a musical theatre option brought to the table he might just let an arm be twisted. In stark contrast, it should be noted that Campbell just as effortlessly takes Bucchino’s hit song from the DreamWorks animated movie Joseph: King of Dreams and makes it his own. He makes this little story, one of the complete ones, soar and sear our hearts.
It helps that there is so much in the music to share. Bucchino is a precise lyricist and a gifted storyteller, but not in the traditional sense of the word. In fact we almost get just as much story in those apologetic interludes as we do in the songs, as he takes great pains to establish the context of each, remembering and describing the people and places that have served as inspiration. The songs themselves become just snippets! But what intriguing snippets, what delectable morsels they are. (Warning: foodie references to follow). Sometimes they start and end with just a feeling, pure intensity, making me think, inexplicably, of Silky’s Pop Cakes, filled with honey, which she serves with Toffee Shocks and Google Buns to unsuspecting guests in her cosy home at the top of The Faraway Tree. (I found a recipe for Pop Cakes here! Wheeeee!).
Of course all composers will claim their songs come from pure feeling but these are different, defining a core feeling from very few words, or from many more words than we might expect. Even when the story “ends”, we can hear that beyond the song the story goes on. The evening is basically a banquet of exquisite tasting plates, just like we find at a couple of our favourite spots that deserve a shout out here, Ole (Little Stanley Street) and the Spice Bar (Mooloolaba Esplanade). Unexpressed and Feels Like Home are lovely, light, warm and delicious little dishes that give us an appetite for something more, something like Puddle of Love. Sweet Dreams and Playbill offer an entirely different taste, like Zumbo’s caramel salted somethings (this is not Zumbo – I know ’cause I finally met him this year at Noosa International Food & Wine Festival! But if you wanna’ try making his macarons this vid is GOOD! REMEMBER- DO NOT OVER PULSE AND DO NOT OVER BAKE. JUST SAYING). On My Bedside Table is the laughter that goes with liquor and cigars at the end of a great night. Taking the Wheel is genuinely joyous; full of zest, and Grateful brings the evening to a gentle, not-too-sentimental close, sending us out with satisfied smiles.
This concert is an intimate insight into a long-lasting friendship and two very different – but maybe not so much – creative careers. Bucchino and Campbell are masters of song and story. I feel privileged to have been a guest at what feels like a living room post-show champagne and canapé party around the piano. This is fun, fascinating and truly entertaining cabaret, and it’s touring so get onto it! Tour dates below.
Friday 6 June Brisbane QPAC Concert Hall
Friday 13 June Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Saturday 14 June Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Wednesday 18 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Thursday 19 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Friday 20 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Saturday 21 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Sunday 22 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday 25 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Thursday 26 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Friday 27 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Saturday 28 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Sunday 29 June Riverside Theatre, Parramatta