Amanda McBroom & Michele Brourman

City Recital Hall, July 19 

mcbroom resHad Jacques Brel been alive and well and living in Sydney, and had he attended Amanda McBroom and Michelle Brourman’s concert entitled Let’s Fall In Love, he may have died a man content. McBroom’s delivery of his dazzling Carousel, about being unable to step off life’s merry-go-round, was almost a physical blow. From Brourman’s toy-like piano it built and built, McBroom compounding the giddy surrealism as she escalated both tempo and intensity until, now at hurtling velocity, it touched upon a previously unheard crescendo of terror, with every syllable still perfectly enunciated.

This unforgettable performance near the show’s end turned a politely appreciative audience into a roaring monster. The shame was that McBroom and Brourman gave nothing else to roar about. Seldom does one encounter such a gulf between near genius in one song and rampant ordinariness in so many others.

The next best offering was the rarely-heard Hoagy Carmichael ballad Baltimore Oriole, an astute choice delivered with nuanced potency and an adroit sense of swing from both singer and pianist that grazed the cusp of jazz. But too many others – including Let’s Fall In Love, Old LoveWheels and The Twelfth Of Never – lacked any particular character, whimsicality or emotive force.

McBroom took four songs to hit her stride, and then, by way of introducing the very funny Keep It In Your Pants, she told us how confused she was by our politics, yet how well-behaved our politicians seemed compared with their American counterparts. She penned half the repertoire, with or without the excellent Brourman, including the amusing One Of Those Days (about everything going wrong) and the affecting Yarnell Hill (sung from a fire-fighter’s wife point of view). Other highlights were Dance (about longing to rekindle a stale relationship’s early fire), The Rose, (the hit she penned for Bette Midler, with harmonies from Brourman), and her charming stories, including about working with Dorothy Fields. But nothing held a candle to that incandescent Carousel.