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BWW Review: ONE WOMAN, ONE PIANO, ONE VOICE at Downstairs At The Maj

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Perth born pianist dazzles at Perth Cabaret Festival

BWW Review: ONE WOMAN, ONE PIANO, ONE VOICE at Downstairs At The Maj

The inaugural Perth International Cabaret Festival may have been winding down on Saturday night, but there was still time for Louise Anton to dazzle a packed Downstairs at the Maj crowd with her show ONE WOMAN, ONE PIANO, ONE VOICE. As the name says, it was nothing but Louise and her piano on stage, wowing the crowd with her vocal range, piano ability, and stage presence that seemed perfectly suited to the intimate setting on closing night.

Louise Anton began with the familiar opening chords of Billy Joel's Piano Man, but she quickly showed that she wasn't planning a jukebox show, instead performing her own Piano Woman, a neat summation of the plans for the show as well as Anton's own feelings. She promised in the song to have the crowd singing, and sure enough virtually everyone was joining in by the end of the set. The "Da, da, da da dumm"s in Piano Man were supported cautiously by the crowd, but Anton worked the audience into effectively serving as a backing group by the end.

The show followed the rough themes in the title, so that the early songs were about women, the middle songs about the piano, and the latter songs about the voice, and Helen Reddy's I Am Woman was such inclusion. Again, the audience played their part in the chorus, steadily being teased into the show by Anton's irresistible command of the room. She could easily have expected the crowd to join in, or shamed them into doing so, but she was able to work the room so well that everyone felt like they were joining in when they chose. By the end of the set, there was barely anyone able to resist joining in.

Louise changed pace to sing an emotional, heartfelt song called Best Girl, a tribute to her late mother. Her change from songs of power to songs of vulnerability had the room hanging on her every note, the emotion clear in her voice. It was easy to empathise with a song about a mother's encouragement, and Louise was able to lead the room along the journey with her. The same crowd that was enthusiastically joining in the song before sat back and listened to Louise and her piano portray her love for her mother. Whilst most of the show leant on songs of love or power, this tribute was not at all out of place, and highlighted Anton's ability to control the mood.

For the 'One Piano' section, Anton sung a simple ode to her instrument of choice, before playing a medley of songs that anyone who has ever learnt piano would know. The pieces were not particularly difficult ones, but Anton grinned mischievously as the opening few bars of each song sparked recognition from the audience. Much of the audience reminisced about their own time spent at the piano as Anton took them from Chopsticks to Greensleeves to Moonlight Sonata. In fact, whilst the show was about one woman, it seemed much of the audience spent this time remembering their childhoods. Again, it was not spectacular piano skills, but rather everyone's own reaction to a trip down memory lane that was the entertainment. Anton said enough, and included enough personal anecdotes, that anyone in the audience who has so much sat at a piano felt spoken to. Several audience members, in fact, could be seen shadow-playing the keys for the songs, so vivid were the memories being evoked.

For her 'One Voice' section, Louise Anton showcased her excellent vocal range with a series of songs. Burt Baccarach's Close To You was a comfortable fit, with an anecdote about when Louise met the man himself to accompany it. Baccarach approved of her version when they met and it was easy to see why. She also included a piece from her album 'True Believe,' recorded with Harry Vanda from The Easybeats. Her second last song was a sweet rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallejulah, which she slowly drew the audience into, building on some freestyle piano before leaping into the familiar tune. Once again, the audience sang along with the "Hallejulah"s, Anton conducting 'her own personal pub choir' (as she put it) before immediately sending her voice soaring to deliver the emotion in the song. It was an amazing change from having everyone in the room singing to having just Louise singing, and it was a beautiful and memorable rendition of the song. She finished the main set with a medley of pop tunes, all easy to singalong to, and encouraged the audience to do as much. She also used the popular songs to once again show her command of the piano and magnificent vocal skills, but there seemed to be very few audience members holding back as she finished the medley with Queen's Somebody To Love, Anton encouraging and guiding the audience as if the intimate Downstairs at The Maj were Wembley stadium for the Queen classic. The audience demanded an encore and Anton obliged, a stripped back version of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now sung from the heart a perfect ending to the set.

Louise Anton spent much of the show exercising her piano and singing skills, but the way she read the crowd and pulled them along for the ride is what really stood out in her show. She slowly and methodically built a sense of closeness suitable for the small setting, having the audience hanging on her every word. Anton's skills as a pianist, vocalist and lyricist are undeniable and were well shown off during the show, but it is her skills simply as an entertainer that make ONE WOMAN, ONE PIANO, ONE VOICE what it is.

Photo thanks to Louise Anton/Perth International Cabaret Festival


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