Sydney Festival: Rogue’s Gallery LIVE

Last night was our last Sydney Festival 2010 event. It was Rogue’s Gallery, a live performance of many of the songs recorded for a 2006 album of the same name. We heard sea shanties and pirate ballads, sweet and bawdy. It was an unusual event, that’s for sure.

It was held outside, in front of the Opera House. This would normally be a good location, as the performers and audience could all see the harbour and the boats to-ing and fro-ing. Last night, however, it pissed down rain for about an hour just before and during the performance. Despite some flimsy rain gear we got fairly wet. We spun that as optimistically as we could, saying that it promoted the idea of a life at sea.

The performers were a motley crew: Marianne Faithful, Todd Rundgren, Peter Garrett, Tim Robbins (huh?), Sarah Blasko, Baby Gramps, Peaches, Liam Finn and others. Few sang sweetly; there was much more rough-and-ready growling. Some of the songs worked brilliantly, some were fun, some were downright weird. A couple were so raunchy – to be expected from sailors’ working songs, I guess – that the performers asked for forgiveness beforehand.

It was two and a half hours of reworked maritime singalong history, and an obvious labour of love for those involved. It wasn’t smooth. Much of it was cheesy. Some was too bizarre to enjoy. But it was fun and varied and completely unique. Those last two things are key to the Sydney Festival being a showcase for all sorts of interesting art, and so bravo.

Photo from Diamond Geyser via Creative Commons license

Arrr, matey: get yer landlubbin’ carcass down to the Barrrrbican!

A few years ago when director Gore Verbinski and actor Johnny Depp were working on Pirates of the Carribean 2 they came up with the idea of releasing an album of sea shanties. That idea came to light as Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys, a double-album of shanties interpreted by artists like Nick Cave, Sting, Bono, Jarvis Cocker and Lou Reed.

I didn’t know the album’s legacy when Dino brought it to my attention shortly after it came out, but I really enjoyed it on its own merits. I grew up in a maritime area with a strong tradition of sea shanties and the tunes on this album immediately apealed to me (though many are too racy to have been sung in polite company).

I’ve just now discovered that there’s going to be a live performance of some of the album’s songs at the Barbican later this month. I’m gutted, though, because I’ll be in Canada at the time. Anyone in London who’s interested should check it out; it will definitely be a raucous and unique singalong evening.

Image from ☞ Russell via Creative Commons license