This month you’ll find vital and unmissable Melbourne jazz, a house-music set that should have you heading back to one of the city’s most storied clubs, and a farewell tour for a living legend.
While Elton John is entering his twilight years and a final world tour with a period of self reflection, conducting strikingly open interviews and releasing an acclaimed memoir, he hasn’t entirely left the rock-star life behind. So far on his Australian tour he’s dropped the c-bomb on security guards in Perth and tossed a $4000 Gucci handbag out the door of his private plane upon touching down in Sydney.
To what extent these diva antics have been manufactured to remind the audience he hasn’t gone soft is up for debate, given John’s awareness of his own image. But it’s also a reminder that the sequined cuddly uncle at the piano has many sides. There’s the plaintive Candle in the Wind crooner, the giant-booted pinball wizard, the drug-addicted rabble-rouser and the Disney romantic.
But despite the theatrics, tantrums, wigs, glitter and bonkers sunglasses, John and his co-writer Bernie Taupin have always made relatable music, forgoing the cultivated strangeness and distance of his similarly chameleonic contemporary David Bowie. Take John’s Rocket Man and compare it to Bowie’s Life on Mars, for example. Bowie’s song is cryptic and, while full of wonder at the unknown, is intimidating in its depiction of the vastness of space. With Rocket Man, though, you’re right there with the titular pilot as he experiences self-doubt, longs for his family and home planet – even the infinite galaxy becomes a human story.
This is your last chance to see John perform Tiny Dancer, Bennie and the Jets, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart and so many more before he blasts off into retirement. These shows are largely sold out, with only a few reasonably priced seats left in the back of the stadium – but rest assured you’ll still be able to see John sparkle from the nosebleed section.
Elton John plays Rod Laver Arena on December 10, 11, 14 and 15. Tickets here.
Melbourne’s innovative young jazz scene is in a period of unbridled creativity. Bands such as Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange are packing nightclubs alongside DJs for “jazz doofs” (sounds absurd; was amazing), and cross-pollinating with collectives such as Mandarin Dreams, who play as session musicians on tracks that jump from hip-hop to psych rock.
This year, revered BBC Radio DJ Giles Peterson released the killer compilation Sunny Side Up on his Brownswood Recordings label – a compilation featuring many all of the musicians mentioned in this segment. For a tastemaker like Peterson to acknowledge the talents of these musicians is a big deal and speaks to the real possibility of crossover potential. This is jazz for the heart and the dance floor as much as for the head. Soon, local labels Plug Seven Records and Wondercore Island will soon release another compilation of groove-led Australian music, Seven Wonders.
But the band making the most of its isolation in Melbourne, a city not known as a traditional centre of jazz, is 30/70. The collective has tracks on both the previously mentioned compilations and has just released its new album Fluid Motion on acclaimed London label Rhythm Section International.
The breadth of styles the band weaves through its tracks on Fluid Motion is dizzying. On the track Tempted, for example, singer Allysha Joy’s ethereal cooing slowly gives way to hand percussion, dubby reverb and brass, before – a full minute and a half in – the track drops into a G-funk party jam, full of firecracker snare drums. As the track leads you out of the club in its back third with bass lines up front, it’s remarkable to reflect on the detail of the journey. If you think you don’t like jazz, that it’s too cerebral and isolating, then head to this show and get your head turned inside out by 30/70’s virtuoso players and a singer at the top of her game.
30/70 plays the Corner Hotel on Saturday, December 07. Tickets here.
Can I Kiss You at Midnight New Year’s Eve Party
So that “jazz doof” we just spoke about? That happened at Melbourne’s wild, new nightclub, Colour. Housed in a former church dating back to 1835, Colour is the newest all-night club to operate in the Queensberry Street space following the short-lived Yours&Mine and the notorious ’90s S&M club Hellfire. Upstairs there is a lurid orange bandroom, and downstairs the dance floor powered by a Funktion-One sound system. The combination of bandroom and club has seen Melbourne’s live music and club scenes grow ever closer together.
This New Year’s Eve, seminal Melbourne post-punk band HTRK (formerly Hate Rock Trio) is hosting a killer line-up to bring in the new decade. The roster includes sets from Claudia Sin and R.Ribiero; and DJ sets from HTRK and CS + Kreme. Expect a heaving dance floor downstairs and chill-out zone upstairs as well as pink champagne, installations and some yet-to-be-announced surprises. It’s also a not-for-profit event with proceeds donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy.
Can I Kiss You at Midnight takes place at Colour on Tuesday, December 31. Tickets here.
Leon Vynehall is one of the world’s most adventurous house-music producers. His work can be cerebral and his full-length offerings are often highly conceptual. Last year at Melbourne Music Week for example, he played a live set at the Melbourne Recital Centre accompanied by 10-piece string ensemble, The Impossible Orchestra. The performance was a re-creation of his recent album Nothing is Still which was inspired by his grandparents’ emigration from England to New York City more than 50 years ago. The record moves away from the club towards ambient-electronic and modern-classical compositions.
But it’s his outstanding 2016 album Rojus (Designed to Dance), on Gerd Janson’s essential label Running Back, that you should look to for an idea of what to expect from his set at Revolver. The album uses samples of birdcalls to draw a correlation between the mating rituals of birds of paradise, and the performative rituals of nightclubbing.
Recently, dance music site Resident Advisor released its newest Real Scenes episode on Melbourne. It’s an excellent overview of the Melbourne scene and the people pushing it forward. But it did have one glaring omission – Revolver Upstairs. Leon Vynehall’s Sunday night show is just one example of how, despite (or maybe because of) its debauched reputation, Revolver remains an essential component of Melbourne’s club scene. If you haven’t been yet, or its been a long time between visits, get to this one.
Leon Vynehall plays Revolver Upstairs on December 8. Tickets here.