Vera Blue and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra @ Hamer Hall

After officially breaking the live music drought with the Candlelight concert, I thought I’d take a chance on this collaboration between the Australian songstress and the MSO.

I’m picky as hell and in normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t splash on tickets for an artist I’m not that into, but with the international borders closed until the vaccines work their magic, it’s only local Australian acts on the menu as far as live music goes.

I remembered Vera Blue (real name Celia Pavey) very well from her times on the second season of The Voice, where she placed third and overall was one of the most memorable contestants from the show. Since then she carved out a respectable career in alternative music and I heard her on Triple J as Vera Blue plenty of times. I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but I figured that at least I’d be guaranteed to see someone who has a genuinely beautiful voice and can really sing live. Throw in a symphony orchestra as a cherry on top, and an evening at Hamer Hall looked like one of the best options around.

I obviously didn’t read the initial announcement too closely, because this concert turned out to be a part of the MSO’s International Women’s Day program celebrating women in music. So the first half of the evening was dedicated to the medley of works by four female composers, performed by the MSO. After the long, loooong break it was great to watch a classical orchestra spin their collective magic onstage. The very last piece, a lush, dreamy and romantic composition inspired by the night sky, was probably my favourite.

Even by the “new normal” socially-distanced standards, Hamer Hall was sparsely filled, with plenty of empty rows at the front. I overheard one of the ushers tell a couple sitting behind me that he didn’t mind people moving around during the interval, so after the first half I decided to take advantage and claim one of the better and probably more expensive seats, closer to the stage.

Soon enough the orchestra was back on, now joined by Vera Blue, to perform the re-arranged versions of her electro pop hits. She wore a rather fabulous structured maxi dress, black with floral patterns, and looked like a crossover between an ethereal mermaid with long red hair and a babushka doll (it must have been the florals). As I had hoped, she’s a wonderful live performer, with an enchanting, quirky presence and soaring angelic vocals. She seemed absolutely stoked to share the stage with the MSO and could barely contain her excitement over the gorgeous orchestral versions of her songs. I never realised that, in addition to being a fantastic singer, she also played guitar and violin, which only increased my respect. Altogether, a very enjoyable night out and money well spent.

P.S. The ticket should have mentioned to bring your own snacks. What kind of respectable venue bar doesn’t sell overpriced snacks?! Normally I’m not even that bothered, but of course the one time I couldn’t get them I was dying for a pack of Maltesers.

P.P.S. Speaking of tickets, something clearly went wrong with the booking system, because in order to collect my ticket, I was directed to a booth outside of Arts Centre where I had my details manually written on a piece of paper. I didn’t expect to be taken back to 1921 in this digital age!

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