De Parel Spiegeltent
Tuesday, February 2, 2015
Michael Griffiths comes on stage and says, “Hi, I’m Annie Lennox.” That’s as far as the characterisation goes. He doesn’t look, act or sing like Annie Lennox, but he’s telling her story through her songs, presenting her emotional journey of career successes and failures in love with the aid of a keyboard, a mic and a candle. It’s a really simple show, and Griffiths is a simple storyteller. He doesn’t greatly embellish, but he imagines and invokes, weaving a path through Lennox’s life that’s easy to follow.
This is one cabaret that doesn’t offer dirty jokes, nudity, sight gags or references to excessive drug-taking or drinking. It’s a very classy affair, and Griffiths is a genial conduit for Lennox’s story. He takes it easy behind the keyboard, pausing reflectively between songs, giving each moment room to breathe. He’s witty and engaging, but there is a bittersweet melancholy to the music and lyrics that he doesn’t back away from in favour of getting laughs for himself.
He does use a few running jokes throughout the set though, like coming up with deliberately dubious lyrics such as making a play on Minaj/mirage, and lighting a candle to clear the air afterwards. He occasionally interjects the story in the booming English voice of Lennox’s father, who gives her advice in pithy witticisms. The Tuesday night audience gets involved with Thorn In My Side a little hesitantly, but they eventually got into the spirit with encouragement from Griffiths. He’s the type of guy you don’t want to let down, he’s so charming and affable.
His renditions of Eurythmics hits are stripped back to just their bare bones; there are no drum beats, no synth strings, no guitar, so it’s as if we’re hearing the songs for the first time. It’s an interesting exercise, but so much of what makes a Eurythmics or Annie Lennox tune so infectious are all the things that are missing in Griffiths’ renditions. Some songs become infectious in different ways, such as a circus carnival version of Love Is a Stranger which somehow seemed just right in the Spiegeltent. Some became a little more saccharine with the pianoman treatment, but overall, Griffiths conveys a reverence for Lennox that sweeps us along.