Sweet Dreaming: Eurythmics Reimagined @ HBF Stadium
Thursday, December 3, 2020
After blowing it out of the park with their David Bowie tribute show earlier this year, Perth Symphony Orchestra were back at it again on Thursday night with their celebration of Eurythmics and its frontwoman Annie Lennox with Sweet Dreaming: Eurythmics Reimagined.
Opening the show were INNEKA, Perth’s first and only electronic string quartet. We previously reviewed their opening show and INNEKA have certainly made a name for themselves in the months following, including appearances at Telethon 2020 and the opening of the new WA Museum Boola Bardip. All that playing has certainly paid dividends, as the group’s performance was much more polished this time around.
The quartet reinterprets pop and trance tunes, and here their interplay was as energetic as expected but also very tight. Trance classics in Robert Miles’ Children and Darude’s Sandstorm made familiar appearances and were performed with panache. Their stage presence was great too, with the ladies obviously enjoying playing off one another and choreographing, as on the opening of their epic take on Palladio. The band also had time to showcase some new original tunes, which hinted at a more fun and jazz-oriented approach. They hadn’t finished for the night however, as they later took their seats as members of the orchestra for the main show.
Unlike the career-spanning retrospective of David Bowie which careened across different songs in his career, this show traced Eurythmics’ career chronologically: from their early pioneering synth pop hits, to their 80s pop peak, and then onto Annie Lennox’s award-winning solo career.
The first song, the cold and haunting Love is A Stranger, featured the three vocalists that would represent Annie Lennox in different stages of her career: Freddie Mai, Sabrina Davies, and Ali Bodycoat. The song went off well, although the disparity in vocalists was noticeable from the get-go.
Herein lay the show’s main fault, which was the performance of local musician Freddie Mai. Mai is a Fremantle-based non-binary vocalist who has made waves with their jazz/soul outfit Bass Lemon. Mai’s voice is husky and deep, but unfortunately, it lacked the power and volume to rise above the orchestra. It was a shame, as Mai certainly looked the part and was tasked with covering what many would consider Eurythmics’ most iconic hits.
As a result, classics Sweet Dreams and Here Comes the Rain Again did not engage the crowd as they should have. Jazzier and looser melodic vocal lines didn’t suit these razor-sharp synthpop numbers. Who’s That Girl was very much a “re-imagined” take on Eurythmics (which is, after all, the intent of this series), but unfortunately it was overdone. Mai’s nerves were also on show, with an awkward introduction to There Must Be An Angel which saw them forget their line and preface a sax solo which never happened.
Would I Lie To You saw a transition on several fronts. The song was the first in Eurythmics’ more straightforward pop period. It also saw a change in vocalist and a change in energy, with the crowd firing up at long last. Sabrina Davies is a veteran of the Perth scene known for her Pinked show (playing Pink) and Lady Gaga. She is a consummate professional and it showed, from her on-stage banter and introductions (including an impromptu introduction to our bemused resident harpist, Will) to her powerful takes on these beloved hits.
Even It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back), which was a slower and looser re-imagining of a personal favourite, was given a beautiful treatment thanks to Davies’ tremendous voice. Miracle of Love was a highlight of the show – a pitch-perfect rendition of this challenging ballad, and When Tomorrow Comes finished Davies’ stint with the kind of uptempo pop banger that the crowd had been waiting for.
Last but certainly not least was Ali Bodycoat, who cut the grandest figure of the three. It’s no surprise that Bodycoat has a background in cabaret because this was the most theatrical and sassy leg of the set. Little Bird, bathed in harmonica and strings, was carried off excellently. Why was the best moment in the show, a beautiful ballad that transcended the confines of a mere rock show and was pure performance art. Into the West, originally a Lennox contribution for Lord of the Rings, featured an ingenious use of the didgeridoo which served as a perfect intro, and then came on at the end to provide harmony to an already epic performance.
The trio got back together at the end for two crowd-pleasers: the powerful Missionary Man and Eurythmics’ cover of Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves. Both were uptempo pop numbers that suited the soulful vocal stylings of all three singers well. Mai’s confidence had much improved, with their soulful jazzy vocals counterbalancing Davies and Bodycoat excellently.
Overall, this was a great show once it got over its initial hiccup. Despite this, PSO is to be lauded for bringing in musicians of all stripes and levels of experience, and the show certainly earned its “Re-Imagined” moniker. Pleasing the crowd while challenging expectations is a difficult balance, but this series of shows has succeeded thus far. It will be interesting to see what they deliver next.
Photos by Caris Morcombe