New co-artistic directors Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect have put a lot of heart into their first Adelaide Cabaret Festival. They’ve even recorded a cute musical number for pre-show announcements, instructing audience members to turn off their mobiles and not take photos.
They’re two artists passionate about the breadth of the art form and that’s clear in their programming, bringing the best from around Australia and the world, including living legends and rising stars. But for one night only McGregor took to the stage to celebrate her ten years working in the world of cabaret.
McGregor started her career as an operatic soprano, but a decade ago wandered into the Famous Spiegeltent and never looked back. She transformed into a jazz chanteuse, swapping her ethereal soprano for a light but colourful belt. But she still throws in the occasional piercing coloratura note — because why would you throw away that talent?
Decadence saw McGregor take on both jazz standards and her reimagined pop hits, including a medley of songs by the Prodigy, a Britney number and a tribute to the ladies of rap. She even reclaimed AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long (from Celine Dion and Anastacia).
McGregor was backed by her long-time musical director Sam Keevers, one of Australia’s best jazz pianists, who brings a brilliantly authentic jazz feel to all McGregor’s pop obsessions. He plays as part of a jazz trio, with a special guest saxophonist, who turned up the heat for Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s I Put A Spell On You.
And no celebration of McGregor’s cabaret career would be complete without her scorching torch version of Radiohead’s Creep (there’s every chance she’s performed the song live more than Radiohead has), which brought the audience to its feet.
It’s a bit of a slapdash setlist, and there’s something a bit odd about launching from an energetic opening number into a gorgeously languid and long rendition of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. But 80 minutes spent watching Ali McGregor sing are always going to be 80 minutes well spent.