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BWW Review: A NIGHT IN PARIS - LOUISE BLACKWELL AND THE FRENCH SET: ADELAIDE FRINGE 2018 at Spiegel Zelt, Gluttony

Feb. 18, 2018  

Reviewed by Petra Schulenburg, Saturday 17th February 2018.

Imagine yourself transported to an intimate French bar with luxurious, deep red velvet curtains, mirrors set into dark wood panelled walls, couples settled into cosy booths, the room filled with a hazy smoke and, on stage, a chanteuse of inimitable style and full of joie de vivre. This is A Night in Paris - Louise Blackwell and The French Set.

Instead of the Left Bank, we are immersed in the Spiegel Zelt at Gluttony, a venue with the perfect ambience to take us on a journey of chansons celebrating 1930s stars, such as Edith Piaf, Fréhel, and Lucienne Boyer, to the post war and 1960's folk and pop songs of Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel, Léo Ferré, Barbara, Boris Vian, and Serge Gainsbourg.

Louise Blackwell and band, The French Set perform, with passion and consummate skill, a range of songs as topical today as then, many of them in the musical style known as chanson realiste, which dealt with the lives of Paris's poor and working-class, songs that, by turns, speak to us of love and longing as well as small minded hypocrisy and life's disappointments.

In the intervals between the songs, Blackwell paints the audience vivid pictures of Paris life and streetscapes, her animated performance embodying both the song and period. We are introduced to a range of characters oft portrayed with a playful humour, such as the frustrated train conductor, covered in the ticket confetti of other people's adventures, to a self-satisfied arms dealer, driving his big Cadillac through increasingly empty streets.

Inhabiting her characters and songs both physically and vocally in a way that speaks to her early background in acting, Adelaide local, Blackwell, later moved to France to study, first cinema and literature and, later, jazz vocals. During her 10 years away, she performed in numerous Paris clubs, collaborating and performing with many great jazz singers and musicians.

In this, Blackwell has been consistent, as the band, The French Set, comprises some of Adelaide's finest jazz musicians. With Mark Ferguson on keyboard, Julian Ferraretto on violin, John Aué on double bass and Joshua Baldwin on drums, each in their own right prolific and talented, together they provide so very much more than just a backdrop to the vocals.

The expressive violin in particular on this occasion, oft times played quite literally to lively effect, or as a commentator on the action, or echoing Blackwell as a second voice, by turns sensuous and soulful.

On the night, I bumped into a mutual friend and admirer of the artist, who described Louise Blackwell as "divine, with a big heart". Based on her performance tonight, I couldn't agree more.

There are two further performances scheduled for Saturday March 3rd and Sunday March 4th at 5:40pm. Spend a Night in Paris with Louise Blackwell and The French Set and drink in the atmosphere.

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