Review: Peter & Jack, Adelaide Cabaret Festival

“This was a devoted crowd, paying tribute to two men who accomplished so much as iconic Australian musicians.”

As Barry Humphries, host of this one-night only performance, quipped, if Peter Dawson and Jack O’Hagan were Americans, their musical exploits and accomplishments would have them forever hallowed as legends. But because they were Australian, they have been, for the most part, forgotten in the mainstream. Sunday night’s audience had not forgotten Dawson – Adelaide’s own and one of Australia’s most celebrated baritones – or O’Hagan – who penned more than 600 songs over his career – that much was clear, judging by the moans of satisfaction as songs were announced throughout the show. This was a devoted crowd, paying tribute to two men who accomplished so much as iconic Australian musicians. We learned as the show went on that their careers traversed seismic shifts in the music industry. Indeed the beginning of these careers probably outdated the invention of the term ‘music industry’. From early last century, through to the beginning of musical mass-distribution, the invention of radio, across two world wars, to the commercial boom of the post-war period, these combined performers hammered out hundreds of songs in all kinds of media. As such it was only fitting for this once off tribute to be as varied and powerful as possible. Opera singers, Teddy Tahu Rhodes (pictured) and Greta Bradman performed incredibly beautiful renditions of O’Hagan and Dawson’s oeuvre, while The Idea of North brought levity to the show with a set of jazzed-up versions, and the Voice of Transition Choir added weight to a few numbers as well. All this was bolstered by always solid performance of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vanessa Scammell. Likewise, Barry Humphries was always on point as host, throwing in one-liners and nostalgic anecdotes, though never attempting to steal the show with his razor wit, and evidently as joyful as the rest of the audience to be witnessing such a gorgeous performance. Included in the evening’s repertoire were classics like O’Hagan’s Along the Road to Gundagai, Our Don Bradman and Dog on the Tuckerbox, plus Dawson’s oft-performed The Toreador Song, Boots and, of course, Waltzing Matilda. Running at two hours and twenty minutes including interval, few were tired of this unforgettable spectacle when it finished all too soon. The audience delivered an ecstatic standing ovation in honour of two of Australia’s greats.

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