Concert Review: Groove Sessions/ The Idea of North
The Idea of North – Groove Sessions
Independent Theatre, North Sydney,
18 February 2018
Written by Paul Bennett
With an impressive collection of albums of various styles, ARIA awards and an extensive fan base in Australia and overseas, The Idea of North can lay claim to being one of the premier vocal groups in Australia.
Today’s concert, Groove Sessions, showcased the latest iteration of a group that started when four students from the Canberra School of Music started singing together for fun in the mid 90’s – and it grew into a real job!
The line up has changed several times over the intervening years and two of the four principal singers we heard today are different to those whom we heard as recently as 2017. The end result is a different sound in many ways to the previous combinations but with enough similarities to keep the enthusiastic fan base happy and comfortable. These changes have afforded the space for the group to explore new territories and feels which, by and large, work well.
The new soprano and bass voices Emma Rule and Luke Thompson, have seamlessly integrated into the tight arrangements for which the a cappella group is known, beautifully illustrated by the interpretations of two Joni Mitchell songs, Big Yellow Taxi and Both Sides Now as well as the ballads I Said No and Flame Trees from previous albums. The detail and the subtlety were beautifully executed and the blend of voices, while different to the previous sound, still has the ability to raise goosebumps.
The areas of exploration for the group have centered on two areas both of which are intriguing. The first is the increased contribution of the senior two members of the group, to the entertainment aspects of the program. Humour has always been part of the performance but Nick Begbie and Naomi Crellin have now made it an integral part of the show with two comedy songs done with a personality driven cabaret feel –like the Tim Minchin song I like singing in F sharp and The Cat.
The second area of exploration has been the opportunities created by the addition of a vocal percussionist, Kai Kitamura. He’s the full drum kit and more but it’s all done with voice! Beautiful jazz feels, seamless shifts in tempo and mood and sympathetic percussion patterns made the songs he contributed to a highlight of the concert. He’s also an entertainer in his own right and his solo section was a standout with the audience.
But for all the enjoyment afforded by the rich harmonies, the comedy songs, the personalities and the addition of percussion, it’s the class of The Idea of North that is the underlying but defining characteristic of the group. The cleverness of the medley arrangements, the light and shade, the distinctive rhythmic approaches to well-known classics which find new life in refreshing ways, are the base upon which this very enjoyable concert was built. The audience had a smile on its collective face from the moment the group walked on the stage to the end of the encore. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
Paul Bennett for SoundsLikeSydney©