4 October, Spiegeltent
Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival 2017
I’m just a little bit in love with Rosie Langabeer. From the first time that I saw her onstage in lab coat and protective glasses, playing the musical saw to the accompaniment of an electric drill, I knew she was the girl for me.
In comparison, tonight in the Spiegeltent, she walks the line between Pierrot and Weimar-era music hall performer. With Rosie you never know what you’re going to get. The atmosphere is more suited to a group of friends around somebody’s kitchen table at 2am than a formal event as part of a prestigious arts festival, as is alluded to by her every sideways glance and offhand quip. She promises a collection of musical treasures that run the gamut from sanguine to melancholy, and hopes that her Libran nature will strike an uneasy balance somewhere in between. And she delivers by the bucket load.
Whether she’s covering Tom Waits or Tom Petty, reimagining Dent May or Sia, she makes the stage and the music her own. Self-confessed guilty pleasures are subverted by a change in pace and key that forces the audience to confront the passive aggressive nature of familiar lyrics that we would otherwise chant mindlessly into the abyss. There’s a wicked glint in her eye as she holds up a mirror to the best and worst of us with a nameless (no spoilers!) ‘European’ song that quickly reveals itself to be a rendition of Swedish 80s rock band, Europe’s The Final Countdown, delivered in what I can only deduce by process of elimination to be Esperanto.
Further thrills are elicited by the emergence, halfway through the set, of darling of the local music scene, Anton Wuts. Attired in dazzling white, as though ‘dressed by his autistic pet cockatoo’, with gleaming sax in one hand and a robust glass of red in the other, he firmly puts the bomp in the bomp bomp bomp. Fuelled by the power of rhythmic onomatopoeia, he communes with Rosie’s accordion and Neil Watson’s guitar, building to a musically dense crescendo, punctuated by giggles at the absurdity of it all. It’s a joke to which we’re all party, made no clearer than in the encore, the half-century-old classic Batman, with Rosie’s imaginings substituting variously ‘tentman’, ‘earringsman’, and ‘womanman’, among others. Adored by her audience, Rosie Langabeer is a force to be reckoned with, funny, fierce and fearless.