Paul Kelly and Paul Grabowski
City Hall, August 5th
Singer-songwriter Paul Kelly and pianist Paul Grabowsky have been part of the cultural furniture since the 1980s. But this evening, songs from her 2020 studio album dominate Please keep your lights onwe heard them on stage like never before.
The festival-dominant folkie and the jazzer out Tonight live with Steve Vizard were transformed into a classic torch duo, re-imagining Kelly’s loveliest songs as Frank Sinatra and his longtime arranger Nelson Riddle would have done.
Actually opener faithful to youwith Grabowsky’s stark minor chords and Kelly’s Gershwin-esque lyrical flourishes, was reminiscent of a Sinatra saloon ballad, so Kelly had to assure us he wasn’t trying to compare himself to Ol’ Blue Eyes.
This evening, however, made it clear that Kelly’s greatness as a singer does not lie in technical virtuosity, as with Sinatra, but in his ability to inhabit a lyric. And to find new ways into old material with Grabowsky’s help.
Take the third song petrichor, originally recorded in 2017 with a country rock sound. On Friday night, only Grabowsky played with delicate beauty, encouraging Kelly into a deeper performance in which the paylines — “I don’t need you, but I want you for sure” — seemed to haze in the air like the chemical reaction behind the title.
It wasn’t just the pianist who gave the singer new energy. The somber, autumnal mood of most of this setlist saw Grabowsky play with a restraint not always found in jazz virtuosos. The perfectly judged grades behind it time and tides evoked sand through an hourglass, the befuddled trills of You’re 39, you’re beautiful and you’re mine were a skillful echo of pop song source material to which Kelly added 23 years.
Grabowsky did not hold back Dumb things, received a surprisingly effective rock ‘n’ roll treatment, with his glissandos cutting through butter like a hot knife. Formerly Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138 became a stomping, tempo-changing beast under his hands, with Kelly having to watch his foil carefully to keep the Australian-accented bard’s puns in place.
Kelly put on his guitar to mark the death of Archie Roach with a shrill note last week Rally around the drumwhile Grabowsky turned around down the streets of the citywritten by his late wife Ruby Hunter for Roach, transformed into a thoughtful instrumental that got people’s eyes dabbing – and not for the only time on a night when the power of partnership reigned supreme.
https://www.smh.com.au/culture/music/torch-songs-shine-new-light-on-the-pauls-20220805-p5b7qd.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_culture Review by Paul Kelly and Paul Grabowsky