Sunday, 8 November 2009

"You should let me love you" ~ Stan the Man

Australian Idol is a lot of fun and I include an entry here for those of you who have not yet had this pleasure. I resisted watching it initially - I'd been hooked on American Idol for two seasons and was sure it would be disappointing in comparison. I could not have been more wrong. In fact I actually like Australian Idol more - the Australians seem more natural to me, but perhaps this is my own cultural bias - I think New Zealanders and Australians stand on more similar ground in this respect.

The music is reason enough to watch but it's the personalities that make it compelling, and as the show progresses the musicians become more skilled and their music a weekly highlight. And because they're human their performances vary in quality and impact. The judges critique each performance but once the number of contestants is reduced to twelve it's the public who decide who stays and who goes.

One special feature of the show is the guest appearance of well-known musicians who coach the contestants during the week and also give their own performance on the night. Liza Minnelli's coaching was especially heart-warming. Here she is being introduced to the audience by the host followed by a clip of her coaching Toby Moulton.
Toby's subsequent performance of "Find me somebody to love" was a favourite, also his rendition of a Radiohead song which I think may be called "Exit music".
Last week Toby announced he was withdrawing as his calling to primary school teaching is stronger than that of a career in music. He stood aside for those he knew wanted that career. Judges, fellow contestants and audience alike were shocked and dismayed but respected his choice and gave him a standing ovation. He's been an outstanding person to watch both for his character as well as his performances. I think he could have won. Never sang in public before entering the contest... Amazing!

Liza's coaching of Nathan Brake also produced a remarkable performance, and this clip of her with him is touching, both for the level at which she chose to engage as teacher and fellow dramatist, and also his response to her.
Nathan's subsequent performance received thunderous applause, so Liza's coaching was put to good use! Disappointingly I didn't find a link to it on YouTube.

Let's not leave out the women: the two top ranked women are Kate Cook and Hayley Warner. Neither is your average pin-up; they are both unusual and very likable.

Kate is a lesbian who left her job at an abattoir to participate in the contest and further her career in music. Here she is giving a very sensitive performance of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide"
I liked Kate's unvarnished naturalness. Her mother committed suicide when she was a teenager which has left her with visible vulnerability, yet her manner is often at odds with this. She addressed the judges with responses such as "Yeah mite [mate], no worries mite" and a broad grin. One of the judges once asked, with an element of despair, if she was ever going to wear a dress on stage. Long pause... "Yeah-nah!" came the response! She has since left the contest and I agree with the judges - she is missed.

Hayley is still in it. She got involved in music only when trouble with her legs prevented her from pursuing her interest in sports. In some ways she looks like a scruffy kid and in other ways, such as in her musical confidence and ability to strut the stage, she seems much older than her seventeen years. She too is very likable. Her performance of Pink's song "This used to be a fun house" was energetic and great fun - the crowd went crazy!!! And let's not forget "Stone Cold Sober"! Thanks John, for a tele that can handle the sound - wind it UP!

All these contestants are great and remarkable in their own ways, but Stan Walker is my favourite - the Maori man with the most. The most what? An astonishing voice and a captivating ability to pulse out from the depths and take us all with him. The Madden brothers of Good Charlotte fame were just two of the guest judges who felt similarly.

Later note:
Disappointingly most of the YouTube clips originally included in this item have been removed due to 'terms of use' violations. I have adapted the text accordingly.

Stan did go on to win the the title and deservedly so, and Hayley was a fine runner up. Favourite performances of Stan's from during the competition were: "Under my Umbrella", "Sweet Dreams" by Beyonce, Leonard Cohen's much copied "Hallelujah," and although the judges panned the musical arrangement I loved "You should let me love you." Yes, Stan, yes - we love to love you too! Bravo and well done!