Review: Songs That Made Me

Gillian Wills

An entertaining yet unusually informal celebration of song, the closing event of the 2018 Women of the World Festival.
Review: Songs That Made Me

Many contributed to this celebration of song, the closing event of the 2018 Women of the World Festival (WOW) with talents drawn from the Commonwealth. Special energy was required to pull the show together. Lucky then that Deborah Conway and Clare Bowditch were co-presenters because they had such a strong rapport and enthusiasm and energy in spades.

The all women, no fuss, stand-and-deliver band of keyboard (Hannah Macklin), lead guitar (Jess Green), bass (Helen Svoboda) and drums (Myka Wallace) channeled some 20 songs. Choice was driven by individual preference and the playlist included wildly diverse numbers from the Mary Poppins special, ‘Feed The Birds’ delivered by keyboardist Hannah Macklin whose muscled up rendering lifted the original’s humble simplicity into high drama.


Joni Mitchell’s wistful classic, ‘A Case of You’ sensitively sung by Deborah Conway, touched a melancholy nerve and was light years away from the kick-up-a-storm, ‘Blame It On The Bossa Nova’ by Fiji’s Laisa Vulakoro, whose flamboyance and dancing verve threatened to blow the roof off QPAC’s concert hall.

If there were singers not quite as stage savvy as Canada’s Shoshona Kish who sang, ‘Feeling Good’ and ‘Brighter’ with pizazz, Bowditch and Conway’s generosity and humour-stoked courage shored up the contributor’s resolve. Bowditch flared into comedian mode, played the fool, red hair flying at the merest hint of flagging energy.

The amount of chit-chat involved in a performance can be tricky to get right. Depending on whether the individual has a-less-is-more or a gush and tell approach. In this fun event, there was sometimes too much, sometimes too little and at one stage the tone verged on getting too preachy for comfort. Wordiness restrained the momentum especially at the start.

The playlist was authentic, because it was determinedly about individual choice, which disappointed some who may have wanted to hear the well-grooved tracks and blockbusters by the likes of Carole King for instance. But no-one could challenge the sincerity and dedication of the performers. Verandah ChiX, a local a cappella group gave a richly harmonized, stand-out performance of ‘Imer’ about a world cleansed of pain that packed a punch.

After interval, the show fired and the selection sparked with Bowditch’s warmly soulful ‘You Make Me Happy,’ which she penned for the popular TV show Offspring. Emily Wurramara’s ‘Black Smoke,’ sung with steely conviction and a spirited ‘My Island Home’ hit the spot. The Pretenders,’ anthem ‘Hymn to Her’ and the rousing, sing-a-long Conway hit, ‘It’s Only The Beginning’ sung by all brought an entertaining yet unusually informal show to an end.


Songs That Made Me
Women of the World Festival
Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane
8 April

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Gillian Wills writes for ArtsHub and has published with The Australian, Limelight Magazine, Courier Mail, Townsville Bulletin and The Strad, Musical Opinion, Cut Common, Loudmouth, Artist Profile and Australian Stage Online. Gillian is the author of Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken ex-racehorse rescued each other (Finch Publishing) which was released in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and America in January, 2016.