BWW Review: UNDER THE MILKY WAY: TREVOR JONES SINGS THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN SONGBOOK at Downstairs At The Maj
Australian piano man Trevor Jones blew into town last weekend to debut his new cabaret, Under the Milky Way: Trevor Jones Sings the Great Australian Songbook. No question as to what the show will be about with a title like that, and indeed, Jones delivered exactly what was promised. He and his band (comprised of Chris Gibbs on guitar, Daniel Skelton on drums, and Craig Skelton on bass) powered through an hour and a bit of some of the best-loved, best-known Australian songs, interspersed with jokes, laughter and personal insights.
The room was absolutely smitten with Jones, and didn't need to be prompted or encouraged to sing along and interact with him - they readily got into the act of their own accord. Jones gave as much energy as he received (perhaps his large stature and larger-than-life, jovial personality commands it the minute he walks in the room), and I suspect this could have been one of the livelier shows that Downstairs at the Maj might have hosted in a while. The way Jones plays really reinforces the notion that the piano is technically classified as a percussion instrument, and every now and then, just for a couple of beats, the rest of the band have to play catch-up to his driving tempos.
If you're older than a millennial Aussie, this show will absolutely hit the sweet spot and conjure up plenty of memories connected with these songs. He takes us through Deborah Conway, INXS, Peter Allen (who Jones says, "gave us all permission to be that much more camp"), and a mega-medley of female pop stars like Kylie Minogue, Tina Arena, Olivia Newton-John and Natalie Imbruglia, to name a few. He then opens up his Songbook to the audience and takes requests; someone from a table house left shouts out "AC/DC!", to which he swiftly replies, "No, sorry, I'm just...really gay." (Personally, I was quite thankful for this response.) He narrows the audience suggestions down to four and we get to vote by applause; and of course "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again" is the clear winner with this crowd, who undoubtedly relished the chance to shout out the traditional, boisterous rejoinder to the song's title question.
Throughout the show, he teases Daryl Braithwaite's "The Horses", starting in on the song and then quickly cutting off with, "I'm NOT going to play that! It's not even Aussie!" (it's a Rickie Lee Jones cover), but finally lets us have it in the encore, along with Hunters & Collectors's "Throw Your Arms Around Me." And yes, he does give us The Church's "Under the Milky Way" - how treacherous would it be if he didn't?
For the 3 or 4 of us in the audience who weren't Australian-born, there may have been a song or two that were unfamiliar, but Jones made sure we found a reason to love the songs we didn't know. In terms of bang for your buck, Trevor Jones pays off in spades, and then some.