By Darby Turnbull
After over a decade of performing Bradley Storer, the ‘dark princeling’ of Melbourne Cabaret makes a triumphant return to the Butterfly Club for a musical retrospective of some of his favorite musical performances. Pithy self-deprecation within his title aside, Storer has spent the last years consistently refining his craft and raising the bar for excellence in his emotionally resonant, devilishly incisive interpretation of popular music.
His stage persona shows an admirable reverence for the history and legacy of cabaret; from Weimar Berlin, to the Russian tea rooms and 90’s punk cabaret revival; whilst also keeping his act firmly placed within the 21st century. Wearing his signature Pierrot pancake make-up and a simple corset vest he displays raw power and polished professionalism allowing his talent and experience to speak for itself with an aesthetic that nakedly draws attention to his mastery of gesture and connection to his material.
Joined on stage by prolific musical director, David Butler on keys and Reuban Morgan and Cameron Bajraitarevic-Hayward on Violin and Cello the musical accompaniment adds invaluable richness and majesty to the proceedings. Given the budget restraints usually associated with cabaret performers and audiences can take for granted that musical accompaniment is increasingly limited but the opportunity to hear a more textured array of sound, especially alongside Storer’s awe inspiring vocal range makes for a particularly pleasurable aural experience. The balance and tone with which they all work with each other to create such polished synergy speaks to the professionalism and skill of all four members of the stage. It means that the artists represented in Storer’s repertoire get the extra oomph that both he and they deserve. And what songs they are, in modern parlance there are ‘no skips’; with each selection from the delicate, haunting Hushabye Mountain, to the brassy cynicism of the Weimar medley; it takes guts to pull out ‘Pirate Jenny’ given it’s been a staple for nearly a century, but Storer’s keen characterisation ensures it makes a distinct impression. Highlights also include a rapturous rendition of Cher’s Dark Lady, with a respectful hint of her famous vibrato and an awesomely resonant tribute to Nick Cave’s Murder ballads, ironically two that don’t appear on the Murder ballad album. It’s a tremendous display of Storer’s range showing ethereal delicacy, open hearted wistfulness and demonic resonance. Impeccably prepared and interpreted, he has that rare skill among cabaret performers of not getting caught up in solipsistic banter and keeping his stage banter precise, carefully timed and to the point. That’s not to say his material is without heart but his oration allows the music to enhance his message with just enough context to give it the required resonance. Anarchic spontaneity may be a staple of cabaret, and a powerful one at that but sometimes it’s equally, and sometimes more enjoyable to allow a performer to take you on an expertly curated journey.
If this performance is any indication, audience members can look forward to many more years of Bradley Storer continuing to make a unique, intelligent and superbly sung impression on any song he lends his talent to.
You can catch him at the Butterfly Club until October 8th.
*Full disclosure, I’ve worked with Bradley Storer before and we have an ongoing friendship.