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Cabaret Festival review: The Hot Sardines

Cabaret Festival

Infectious grooves, frenetic tap dancing and witty Brooklyn banter make a night with The Hot Sardines more like a party than a show.

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The easy retro-jazz of this stylish eight-piece ensemble fits the Famous Spiegeltent’s dance-hall vibe perfectly. Frontwoman Elizabeth Bougerol gets the party started with Cole Porter’s’ “Love Paris”, her vocal texture sliding effortlessly between sultry and mischievous in a rendition that moves from languid love song to big band finale.

Tony Bennett’s “Crazy Rhythm” introduces us to the band with impressive solos from the brass section (Todd Londagin on trombone, Adelaide’s own Josh Chenoweth on trumpet, Ben Golder-Novick on tenor sax), some tricksy piano trills from band leader and pianist Evan Palazzo, and another Adelaide jazz star, Bonny Aué, on double bass.

But the dramatic highlight is a funky Latin-American version of Sophie Tucker’s “Some of These Days”, where full rein is given to the gem in the Sardines’ crown, tap dancer AC Lincoln. Practically beatboxing with his feet, Lincoln provides much of the band’s percussion and enlivens the stage with his charismatic cartoon mannerisms.

Parisian-born Bougerol then takes it down a notch, going all French on our asses with “L’amour s’en Fout”. The New Orleans vibe is enhanced by some trombone trickery from Londagin, who shifts between growly and wah-wah with use of a damper.

Bougerol introduces another low-key number, Ella Fitzgerald’s “After You’ve Gone”, by telling us she likes to celebrate when songs reach their 100th birthday. The key to human longevity, she says, is kale and stress-avoidance, but the key to the longevity of a song is the ability to tap into eternal emotions. The sweet melancholy of the vocals is jazzed up towards the finish with more high-spirited tap.

The outfit pick up the tempo for the end of the show with Fats Waller’s “Your Feet’s Too Big” and an old favourite, “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home’ (featuring Bougerol on washboard). The grand finale is their signature tune, a boisterous version of The Andrews Sisters’ “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen”, which includes a quality drum solo from Beth Goodfellow and Golder-Novick getting down and dirty on the clarinet, taking it off stage and into the audience.

“Everything in our DNA is about connecting with the audience. That’s where we feel most at home,” says Bougerol on the band’s website. The standing ovation as the band leaves the stage demonstrates the warmth of that connection, one that has been forged from actual conversation with the audience as well as the deep conversation that happens when a group of people listen to live music.

The Hot Sardines’ final performance tonight in the Spiegeltent has sold out.  See all InDaily’s Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.

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