REVIEW: Ali McGregor: Decadence at Assembly Hall

Cabaret/Music

Ali McGregor: Decadence, Assembly Hall, 6-12 Aug (not 8), 6pm

3 stars

A three-piece jazz band display their prowess as we file into Rainy Hall; the lights low, as they will mostly remain. An increasingly fervent performance ensures Ali McGregor’s audience have already immersed themselves in their surroundings for the next seventy minutes when her magnetic presence arrives from stage right.  

We are immediately treated to a storming rendition of Feeling Good and Feel Good Inc, McGregor and her band simultaneously channelling the towering grandeur of Simone and the gleeful mania of Gorillaz for a delighted crowd, many of whom are already fans. This is not McGregor’s first Fringe, and more than a few attendees exude mild horror when she informs them that it may be her last. In Decadence, she has chosen a set-list based primarily on highlights drawn from a rich history with the festival, including a rendition of Radiohead’s Creep that she first performed over a decade ago after leaving the opera.

Her training as an opera singer is certainly not discounted, as her contagious passion is more than matched by her astonishing range. Plenty of jokes and anecdotes separate and elevate the songs, with her gin-charged hip flask (masquerading as a bracelet) enticingly available to purchase in two colours from the merch stand after the show. Unfortunately, several numbers feel inessential: Creep, Song 2 and particularly a slow arrangement of Foo Fighters’ Best of You are all cover-staples that simply feel tired in 2018. While the show is steeped in nostalgia, the results are much more pleasing and intriguing when McGregor returns to 80s Australia, makes ‘treasure’ of ‘trash’ with a jazz re-interpretation of Britney Spears and tackles Gwen Stefani with contemporary feminism (addressed multiple times during the set, with body-shaming in particular singled out) in mind.

Fraser MacIntyre

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