Comedy review: Josie Long ‘Cara Josephine’, Sydney Comedy Festival, 22 April 2015

Inevitably described as “giddily enthusiastic” and or “unfashionably optimistic”, Josie Long has always ranked high on the list of stand-up comedians you would most like to be friends with. Blessed with a gift for wide-eyed exasperation and the demeanour of a kid who’s broken into a lolly shop, she could easily coast on her abundant charm and perpetual underdog status.

While recent shows have seen her tap into a politically charged vein, Cara Josephine is a creative left-turn, a bold venture into highly personal territory. The show begins with her admitting she had her heart broken last year and traces what happens as her trademark hopefulness is put to the test in the wrenching aftermath of a breakup.

Suffering an unseemly bout of jealousy when she spies a love bite “the size of a slice of ham” on the neck of a teenaged fast food worker, Long tries to escape her woes by throwing herself into her multitude of interests. This includes embracing indoor rock-climbing, delving deep into American literature and, most memorably, cracking wise like a femme fatale​ in a film noir.

Read the full review in The Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/comedy/sydney-comedy-festival-2015-josie-long-review-breaking-up-is-hard-and-funny-to-do-20150423-1mr9qz.html#ixzz3Yf0JJ6gz

Gig Review – The Waterboys, Sydney Opera House, 2 April 2015

An ever-evolving outfit who have counted more than 70 musicians amongst their number over the four decades of their career, the current incarnation of The Waterboys sees bandleader Mike Scott team up with players plucked from across America’s most fabled music cities.

Suave guitar player Zach Ernst hails from Texas, keyboard wizard Brother Paul is a Memphis native and bassist David Hood is from the musical hotspot of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It’s a lineup whose roots lie in soul, blues and Americana, befitting the sound of new record Modern Blues, which is characteristically huge in scope and sweepingly romantic, though more heavily influenced by roots rock as well as the swagger and muscularity of The Rolling Stones this time around.

Apart from the youthful Ernst, they’re a seasoned outfit, though wildly enthusiastic throughout. Fiddle player Steve Wickham is particularly animated, high-kicking around stage, while Brother Paul attacks his keys with the zeal of a mad scientist and wears a maniacal grin throughout.

‘Destinies Entwined’ kicks off proceedings in grand fashion and much of the early stretch of the set is made up of material from Modern Blues.‘Nearest Thing To Hip’ is a stylish lament for a disappearing bohemian scene and ‘Still A Freak’ a statement of defiance and unfashionable optimism, played with real verve.

With lyrics that nod to Elvis, Hendrix and Sun Ra, these are songs that lament past heroes while ranking amongst the most vital and inspired songs Scott has written in decades. One brief, improvised song paid tribute to the recently departed Cynthia Lennon, but for the most part the mood was positively euphoric.

While the new songs were warmly received, the adulation went up a notch for the glorious ‘The Whole Of The Moon’, still the best encapsulation of The Waterboys’ romanticism and Scott’s ability to write lyrics both simple and poetic. A couple of other classics made an appearance, like ‘The Three Day Man’ and ‘Don’t Bang The Drum’, which saw the players pared down to Scott on keys and long-time member Wickham, whose playing was warm and melodic throughout, on electric fiddle.

The encore of the rousing, Celtic-tinged ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ finally brought the crowd – many of whom would have been in their teens when the song was first released in 1988 – to their feet, dancing with unselfconscious joy.

Book Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (2015)

Just a generation ago, the author could remain something of a mysterious figure, glimpsed fleetingly in the book’s jacket photo and maybe probed for their backstory in a rare interview to be pored over by curious fans.

Now as authors flood social media with the minutiae of their daily lives, the possibility of a mega-selling author remaining a literary enigma seems all but extinguished.

Neil Gaiman represents an intriguing outlier to this development though, retaining an air of mystery and unknowability that befits his fantastical writing even as he regularly interacts with his millions of social media followers and spreads his creative tentacles into a myriad of projects.

This latest short story collection even sees him blurring the lines between his social media presence and his fiction, riffing on tweets written by fans in the fragmentary A Calendar of Tales.

It’s yet another extension of a body of work that is at once exhaustingly diverse and rigorously coherent. Whether creating comic books, dark fairytales or a Dr Who story, as he does here, Gaiman’s work is always distinctly his.

Read the full review: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/a-peek-behind-the-curtain-of-neil-gaimans-creative-process-20150302-13prgo.html#ixzz3WhdMKEoh