Fringe review: Intimate Night with the Blues

Accompanied by superbly skilled guitarist Damo, Adelaide singer Zkye uses her raw and powerful voice to tell the story of the blues through its most celebrated female exponents. ★★★★★

Feb 22, 2019, updated Feb 22, 2019

With the help of a “Blues Bible”, Zkye introduces her Adelaide Fringe audience to those artists who have influenced her, from Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey (known in her time as Mother of the Blues) right up to contemporary interpreters of the genre such as Etta James, Bonnie Raitt and Aretha Franklin.

Her many skills as a performer include her ability to engage with her audience and infect them with her passion. The intimate setting of the balcony at the Lost Barrel provides her with a stage on which she can connect quickly and informally, while she and Damo work their way through a wealth of material with breathtaking artistry.

The songs are interspersed with snippets about the artists’ lives, as Zkye toasts them all individually from a bottle of Southern Comfort.

In the first half – where she appears in the full blues gear of black suit and trilby hat, with killer red heels – we learn the early history of the blues on the Mississippi Delta and hear many of the classics such as “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”, “St Louis Blues” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”. In this latter song, Zkye accompanies herself on the keyboard with a skill which brings out the song’s powerful desperation.

The classic material in this half is supported by Zkye and Damo’s interpretation of some less-well-known songs, such as “You Can Have My Husband” and “29 Ways”, where the women artists of that era enjoyed the opportunity to have some fun with their music. We learn, in fact, that it was women, not men, who first put vocals to early recordings of the blues.

The second half of the show sees Zkye interpret contemporary songs by artists such as Etta James, Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt. Stunning the audience from the start with James’ “At Last”, she continues with the heartbreaking “I’d Rather Go Blind”, which gives Damo a real opportunity to shine with an awe-inspiring guitar solo.

Zkye concludes the show with two of her original compositions, which sit quite naturally with those songs which have so influenced her life and her singing style.

This show is for those who love the blues and anyone who just love to see artists with vivacity, true skill and passion.

Intimate Night with the Blues is being presented at the Lost Barrel Balcony in Norwood until February 24. See more Adelaide Fringe reviews and stories here.

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