Straight To You – Tribute to Nick Cave @ The Royal Theatre, Canberra (16/11/2011)

So, you get a bunch of talented and teasingly varied Australian musicians, arm them with the songwriting canon of one of Australia’s ultimate greats, send them off on tour around the country and hope that they wont butcher the songs that have shaped a generation of music lovers – sounds foolproof right?

Well, it could have been a disaster, but Straight To You, Triple J’s tribute to Nick Cave was one of the best shows I’ve seen all year.

The line-up was astounding for a Wednesday night at The Royal Theatre, packed full of Australian stars from all different genres, each of whom reinterpreted Cave’s genius to suit their own styles – and not one single performance disappointed.

Kram, Adalita, Lanie Lane, Abbe May, Alex Burnett of Sparkadia, Johnny Mackay of Children Collide, Bertie Blackman, Jake Stone of Bluejuice, Muscles, Lisa Mitchell, Dan Sultan and Urthboy all appeared, sometimes alone and sometimes with a combination of other artists.

Opening the night was Kram, with a spooky and dark rendition of Red Right Hand. He then stayed on stage to take on drumming duties for the rest of the night, with the rest of the incredibly talented band.

Straight away, the stage was taken by Bertie Blackman and Muscles on a duet performance of Do You Love Me that raised hairs and caused many a spine to tingle.

Alex Burnett’s swoony cover of Shiver caused the entire crowd to sway as one, and his duet with Lanie Lane on Where the Wild Roses Grow was sombre and sexy.

From there it was a rollercoaster of brilliant performance after brilliant performance – Johnny Mackay going berserk on stage during Nick the Stripper, Lisa Mitchells’ ethereal crooning through The Ship Song, Jake Stone’s thrilling dub interpretation of The Weeping Song – I felt like the brilliance was becoming overwhelming. And that was before Urthboy took the stage with the help of Alex Burnett and Bertie Blackman to unleash his rap version of O Children, which was absolutely stunning.

By the time we got through the first act and into the second, the crowd was well and truly pumped, singing along when they could, wolf-whistling and begging various musicians to marry them. For a strange venue, The Royal Theatre managed to provide a fairly good atmosphere for the show, which was really part theatre, part gig.

The second act was as packed with awesome performances as the first, if possible, with an especially entertaining performance of Stagger Lee lead by Urthboy, but involving a rotating cast of other performers in what was a theatrical and dramatic retelling of the classic.

The final song of the evening, Get Ready For Love, involved every performer in some way, and was a lovely, well-rounded end to what was one of the best shows Canberra has seen all year. Keep and eye out for the Triple J DVD release – it’ll be worth a watch.