Eddie Perfect – Songs from the Middle
Opening/The Way It Was
My Sister Worked at Bunnings
Isn’t It Nice to know…
The Middle of the World
Burn it Down
I Wanna Go Home – Ikea
Certain Kinds of People
What are we to do?
Encore: Nepean Highway
IG’s Programme Note:
I have never been to Mentone. My image of the place is entirely formed through these twelve songs of Eddie Perfect and a single painting by Charles Conder. I’ve got nothing against Mentone at all – in fact I love it quite dearly now, through Eddie’s remarkable excavations of human stories, and Conder’s luminescent image of Mentone Beach.
By limiting my real-world experience of the place, I’ve found myself more aware than normal of the echoes of history. Like Walter Benjamin’s angel being blown backwards into the future, here is a series of songs that investigates the past with tenderness, knowing it can no longer be changed – Eddie’s already staring through the back windshield as he takes the Nepean Highway away from Mentone.
I’ve taken great joy in not only writing contemporary arrangements, but also threading historical echoes through Eddie’s songs. I’ve referenced Mozart, Mahler, Strauss, Ravel, Puccini, Reich, Adams (but no ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’) as a way of re-imagining Eddie’s songs as part of a musical continuum that highlights the tradition that a classical ensemble embodies. I’d like to thank Eddie for his beautiful songs and openness to let me play with them, ANAM for commissioning the arrangements, the Brodskys for their generosity in all things, and the wonderful musicians of ANAM for their proficiency, good humour and endless patience.
Sensitive soul of the larrikin from sleepy Mentone
AS a comedic musical entertainer, Eddie Perfect has built a reputation as a loveable larrikin.
Best known for his performances in Keating! and the self-penned Shane Warne The Musical, Perfect has shown strong observational capacities and a quick wit. In terms of content, his satirical irreverence has erred towards the caustic but this has been offset by an easy, mischievous delivery that oozes laid back, wholesome, and very Australian charm.
Perfect’s latest creation, Songs from the Middle, reveals a different side to the composer and performer. This twelve-part song cycle provides a few belly laughs and there are splashes of bittersweet comedy. But ultimately the story that unfolds is less about satire and more about the thoughts and emotions of the sensitive soul hidden behind Perfect’s roguish stage persona. In this regard, it taps into the
The songs were inspired by Perfect’s childhood in Mentone, one of Melbourne’s quiet south-eastern bayside suburbs. The lyrics cast a nostalgic eye over the frustrations and preoccupations of teenage life in a slow town: the lack of things to do, underage drinking, awkward and unrequited love, train graffiti, arson, rebelling against authority. From these unlikely themes, Perfect weaves a poignant narrative of adult reconciliation with a place and a past from which he fled at the first opportunity, restless and with no sense of belonging.
The songs, masterfully arranged and orchestrated by Iain Grandage for strings, wind, percussion and piano, were performed by the illustrious Brodsky Quartet, six musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music and Perfect on keyboard and vocals. Stylistically, the arrangements are infused with soul, pop ballad, funk, and contemporary classical, all bound together with a form of sinewy lyricism reminiscent of the Whitlams.
Perfect has excellent diction, and this proves essential in communicating the subtle comedic and tragic twists in the lyrics. In this context vocal quality is a secondary issue, but here Perfect also has strengths, with an attractively rich lower register and plenty of midrange power.
The Brodsky Quartet proved a sublime addition. Grandage’s arrangement frequently moves beyond the standard swooning of backing string lines in pop to instead inject dissonance, percussive effects and lively articulation. The ANAM musicians were equally engaged, joining at times as backing vocalists, keeping tight ensemble, and clearly enjoying the experience.
As a story of juvenile anger transformed into peaceful adult reflection, this is a moving, courageous and mature work that lingers in the imagination. The journey back to sleepy old Mentone proves one well worth taking. Eamonn Kelly The Australian July 29, 2010