Paul Kelly joins forces with Irish musicians to combine live music with spoken word and poetry

Art Review from Australia. Published by Rebecca Gabrielle Cannon on Saturday 10 June 2017.

Paul Kelly joins forces with Irish musicians to combine live music with spoken word and poetry image Paul Kelly joins forces with Irish musicians to combine live music with spoken word and poetry image Paul Kelly joins forces with Irish musicians to combine live music with spoken word and poetry image Paul Kelly joins forces with Irish musicians to combine live music with spoken word and poetry image Paul Kelly joins forces with Irish musicians to combine live music with spoken word and poetry image Paul Kelly joins forces with Irish musicians to combine live music with spoken word and poetry image

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If the Dark Mofo can be hailed for one thing that sets it apart as a festival, it's having cultural balls. The title alone sets the pace, placing a very unabashed swear-word phrase in the headlines of reputable publications the world over (they reached a new peak this year with news coverage in Namibia), but more importantly, for allowing artists to perform works far outside expected norms.

Ancient Rain was one such performance, with legendary Australian folk musician Paul Kelly and his band joining forces with Irish singer Camille O’Sullivan to present a hybrid performance of songs and spoken word poetry.

Inspired by one hundred years of Irish letters, from Yeats and Heaney, to Kavanagh, Joyce and others, Ancient Rain took the audience on a journey through pop music motifs repurposing some of Kelly’s back catalogue, through to the band performing music as a background support track for Kelly and O’Sullivan’s spoken word poetry – through to poetry spoken with no musical backing at all.

The combination was a surprise for us, having bought tickets just to hear the wonderful, clear and ever-radiant lyrical genius of Paul Kelly. Although an element of the show, Kelly took a back seat for O’Sullivan to lead the vocals, and the piano backing by Feargal Murray was beautifully filled out by an at times very rocking combination of cello, drums and guitar.

Ancient Rain has previously performed elsewhere in Australia, but at Dark Mofo, where the festival sets no expectations as to what format any particular art experience might take, does this hybrid music-poetry show seem most at home. It’s truly inspiring to know that the audiences to these sold-out shows openly embrace (to standing ovation) one of Australia’s most iconic performers branching in to creative terrain beyond what we commonly expect of them.

If spoken word and poetry are not your thing – beware there is a fair bit of it! But it’s likely the most musically-cushioned version of it you’ll hear.