Teatru Unplugged's X Factor

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Sunday 23 Dec 2007 (Michael Bugeja - The Sunday Times of Malta)

The article as printed

This year, for a change my better half and I attended Teatru Unplugged’s opening night instead of the closing one. For several years now, I’ve looked forward to this event, its mixture of musical styles and artists being something that makes it one of the top pulls on the local cultural and live entertainment calendar. This year marked the event’s tenth anniversary, and there may have been those expecting something special for the occasion. The thing is, Teatru Unplugged is special every year, and this year’s line-up would keep it that way.

The opening act was up-and-coming singer Carrie Haber, who gave us six songs – well, five and a short interlude called Dust – that illustrated just why every critic has been lobbing names such as Kate Bush and Tori Amos her way. Slipping in reworked versions of Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams and Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart alongside her own You Turned Me To Plastic, Me Oh My and I Think I Would Die, her solo piano and vocal performance was quite impressive.

Next up, New York-based pianist Paul Shaw, playing the event for a third time, offered us an intricate classical piano recital, delivering works by Chopin and Rachmaninov with agility, power and impeccable precision. He was joined by his equally talented wife Anne Paolini Shaw on a ‘quattromani’ performance of Barber’s Hesitation Tango, switching places for an excerpt from Stravinsky’s Petrushka, signing off with The Nutracker Suite as a Christmas bonus. This man will be back! Count on it!

The last artist on before the interval was local unsung hero Grimaud. An acoustic player whose presence on the local scene goes back to the 1980s, Grimaud may have, as he joked in between songs, grown thinner on top and thicker round the waist, but he’s lost none of the passion and knack for delivering a good tune. Armed with only his voice, guitar and a selection of harmonicas, it was all there on the night; present in every tune from Getting On Well (Nos 4 & 9) through to All About You by way of his classic Brand New Day, Stranger In My Home, Poem and an entirely reworked take of Lennon & McCartney’s Help. This man deserves to be bigger than he is, and I don’t mean round the waist!

The second part of the show was left in the able hands of reputable percussionist extraordinaire Renzo Spiteri, who assembled something of a ‘supergroup’ (in local terms) for the task at hand. The eight-piece band was spot on throughout the largely vibrant set, which this year had funk and soul as its core ingredients! Vocal duties were carried out by Gianniand Ivan Filletti (regular faces at TU) along with Sue Wadge and Claire Falzon. Alternating on the mike, they delivered the usual quips and a number of cool tunes, such as Too Funky In Here, Walking The Dog, Hump De Bump, Tell Me About It and Play That Funky Music, which seemed to warm up the audience enough to tap their feet and even sing along in places. I felt however that the sequence of the set (and a couple of the songs) may have let down the momentum towards the build-up, which probably explains why, when the band kicked into Kool & The Gang’s Get Down On It for the finale, the crowd’s reaction was nothing like the party vibe that everyone has come to expect form a TU evening! This being the opening night may have had something to do with it, but overall, the post-concert comments I heard were pretty positive nevertheless! Roll on Number 11!