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Adelaide Fringe

Review: Jo Lawry

Adelaide Fringe

Ex-pat Adelaidean Jo Lawry returned to the Fringe after last year’s sell-out show to deliver another hour of classy musicianship. ★★★★

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New York-based Lawry, best known for her work with Sting, provided a cocoon of restraint inside the Spiegeltent on Saturday night, in contrast to the utter chaos happening in the rest of the Garden of Unearthly Delights (is it getting too big?).

Joined on stage by Chris Hale (bass), Ben Todd (drums) and her husband Will Vinson (keyboards and, for one song, virtuosic soprano saxophone), Lawry delivered a highly polished bracket of mostly her own songs, with one spectacular diversion into classic jazz.

Last year’s sold-out show was a homecoming of sorts, and came on the back of Lawry’s excellent work with Sting and Paul Simon at their outdoor show at the Cooper’s Brewery, and the release of her album, Taking Pictures.

For those who haven’t heard Lawry aside from in the background of a Sting album, she has a pure, finely controlled soprano voice, perfect for the kind of complex folk-pop she writes.

She trained in jazz at the Elder Conservatorium, and dusted off one of her old assignments – a transcription of saxophonist Hank Mobley’s instrumental version of the clever Irving Berlin song, “Remember” (“Remember we found a lonely spot, And after I learned to care a lot, You promised that you’d forget me not, But you forgot to remember”).

She absolutely nails the complex runs and ornaments without swallowing Berlin’s lyrical genius – breathtaking.

Lawry’s own songwriting is less jazz, more thoughtful pop, but she could well be responsible for the best break-up/torch song ever written by an Australian, “I Said No”. The brutally honest lyrics, strung together with cleverly simple rhymes, are made even more poignant by Lawry’s pure vocal delivery. It’s good to hear that this will be covered on the next album by Australian a capella group The Idea of North – the song should become an Australian classic.

Adelaide sometimes loses track of our brilliant musical diaspora, so it’s pleasing to see Lawry return to the Fringe two years’ running. I hope she makes it an ongoing date in her diary.

Four stars.

Jo Lawry played a one-off concert at the Garden of Unearthly Delights on Saturday.


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