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GERSHWIN REIMAGINED @ Perth Concert Hall gets 8.5/10


Gershwin Reimagined @ Perth Concert Hall
w/ Laura Mvula, Jose James, Troy Miller
Friday, May 7, 2019

8.5/10

Conductor and composer Troy Miller led a captivating performance last Friday at the Perth Concert Hall, where his vision of George ‘Gershwin Reimagined’ came bursting to life. The conductor’s passion was palpable, his entrance immediately elevating the room as he took his place before the WASO – who were notably impeccable from the second they began to move together. Opening with Catfish Row: I. Catfish Row it became strikingly apparent that Miller and WASO were in complete synchronicity, a machine without fault.


Miller’s energy never swayed as anticipation over Laura Mvula‘s entrance grew. The pair’s connection was unmissable; a mutual admiration clear from Miller’s reverent introduction and Mvula’s subtle appearance of awe at his creation.

Fascinating Rhythm was Mvula’s first chance to impress, and she did not disappoint. Respectfully apprehensive, her performance felt natural, her aura otherworldly as she looked on and past the packed Concert Hall bearing witness. By the time she reached her third piece, I Got Rhythm, Mvula was evidently at home. She made it obvious as to why Miller had chosen her to be a part of such a production; the experience truly would never have been the same without her.


As for Miller and WASO’s instrumental pieces, the conductor managed to find a balance between honouring Gershwin while still making changes to his arrangements. The audience was thrilled, a fresh take that did nothing to trample over the beloved originals.


A frequent visitor for Perth Festival, José James was a delightful guest, his vocal ability mesmerising combined with his entirely unique energy. James was calm and smooth, grooving lightly to the orchestra in between phrases as Miller watched on in appreciation. Embraceable You saw possibly James’ best performance of the night; a crowd favourite and a demonstration of his vocal artistry.


Following an intermission, Mvula’s return to the stage saw her present two of her own pieces, Kiss My Feet and Show Me Love. This choice exposed Mvula’s talents not only as a vocalist but as a composer and instrumentalist. WASO supported her elegantly as she commanded the stage, her disposition one of constant gratitude and enjoyment. James’ return saw Miller move from his place to take stand behind a drum kit, a percussive display from the multi-instrumentalist as James came alive to ‘S Wonderful. An unexpected break away from tradition proved once again why Miller is an exceptional leader and creator.


Both Mvula and James returned to the stage for two last pieces, They Can’t Take That Away From Me and an encore of Summertime. The chemistry between the vocalists was calmly electric, their tones melting into one another’s as they each gave the other space to move and be heard, interjecting here and there as they played an exquisite game of call and response. The stage was relaxed, Mvula and James each unable to keep from smiling as they graciously watched on and Miller brought the show to a close.


Miller tapped into something special, his choices in Mvula and James were a stroke of pure genius. He took an experience and turned it on its head, presenting something so fresh and new that Gershwin himself would be proud. The trio, accompanied by the magnificent WASO, redefined what it means to be Reimagined.

CAITLIN NORRIS

Photos by Linda Dunjey

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