The 2018 line-up for The Idea of North : (l to r) Kai Kitamura, Luke Thompson, Nick Begbie, Naomi Crellin and Emma Rule.
The first concert in The Independent Theatre’s Prelude in Tea and Song Series for 2018 was a sold-out event, featuring the unique vocal arrangements and blend of The Idea of North. This group’s
reputation and popularity continue to enjoy an enthusiastic following even after twenty-five years entertaining Australian audiences.
An exciting part of this performance in North Sydney was the audience’s chance to enjoy the recently renewed line-up of the group. A notable addition was that of Kai Kitamura as fifth vocalist
and vocal percussionist. He provided a fresh layer of his human drum-kit to the arrangements. This gave the music great momentum and a session band or jazz group feel whilst still promoting the
power and possibilities of the voice.
Bass Luke Thompson was also a new voice for the ensemble. His strident and robust bass lines were at all times a good anchor. Emma Rule also performed here for one of the first times in 2018 with a
great contemporary sound. Solo moments such as in a poignant arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now were showstoppers. She also contributed a strong upper line to the entertaining
medleys and rapid- fire work in mash-ups, showing a mastery of intricate vocal gymnastics.
From the opening Michael Jackson medley it was obvious we were in for a treat, with many musical styles alternating with ease throughout the programme. A later medley on the theme of money
brought together over a dozen well-known hits ranging from ABBA to the edgy Jesse J. Kitamura’s drum beats and fills were important to the pop and rock sound.
Tenor Nick Begbie and musical director Naomi Crellin endeared themselves and their group us through down-to- earth and often self-deprecating humour or jokes at each other’s expense. This
humour from long-term colleagues was followed by concise introductions to upcoming musical styles. Crellin’s ingenuity of re-arrangement as well as choice of music for the group was clearly
Australian music was well represented throughout the afternoon. A streamlined version of Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees was an exquisite moment with beautifully extended harmonies and vocal
closeness. It was a clever celebration of the popular rock classic, now in expressive a capella guise.
Another highlight of the concert was the step back in time to the early twentieth century Australia of songwriter and radio personality Jack O’Hagan. In this musicological excursion amongst the other arrangements, we heard a medley of charming and elegant period music from this composer, creator of the songs Along the Road to Gundagai, Ginger Meggs and God Bless Australia.
The Idea of North used the performance area and their collective talents expertly to bring the characters and situations in the Jack O’Hagan medley to life. In a joyous reprise of this composer’s output later in the concert one of O’Hagan’s many radio commercials for Gibley’s Gin was presented with signature smooth slickness by The Idea of North. This was historically accurate radio studio fare.
This recreation of such musical history entertained the fans in the crowd. It catapulted us back to a much different musical and social time, one where working musicians wrote prolific amounts of
material for a much different advertising industry environment to our current one.
Extra contrast was given in the programme to a successful version of The Rainbow Connection, including characteristic ukelele sound effects courtesy of Kai Kitamura’s immense vocal inventory.
Lovers of jazz music were also well catered for when the group ventured into this realm with suitable groove and percussion sounds included.
The programme concluded with applause and reaction from an ecstatic audience. The sellout concert included an entertaining programme and was great promotion for the group’s successful new line-up. It was further evidence that this brand continues to go from strength to strength. The future looks full of The Idea of North’s [Facebook] trademark connection with fans old and new, resulting in very bright rainbows indeed.