Review: Lady Sings it Better

Performance at Seymour Theatre – 27 April 2013 (9th Annual Sydney Comedy Festival)

Two weekends ago, I found myself with a few other Hoydenizens and friends at the first Sydney Cherchez La Femme, a Q&A-style panel event with only female panelists, hosted by Karen Pickering.

During the night, there was a musical intermission. One of the acts was Lady Sings it Better, a group of women who, to quote them, take songs written by men and, well, sing them better.

Lady Sings It Better

Lady Sings It Better

Turns out, they were playing two gigs as part of the 9th Annual Sydney Comedy Festival at the Seymour Centre. So a few days later, I was back on a bus from Central to City Road to meet up with a slightly different set of Hoydenizens and friends for more feminist entertainment.

It was, in a word, fabulous.

First and foremost, this group is musically excellent. These ladies really do sing it all better, and the band is well suited to them in this regard.

But there’s more to it than that. You won’t leave one of their shows without a new appreciation of the creepiness, misogyny and good old objectification of women in many of your favourite mainstream songs.

From the obvious (for example, Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me”, Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”) to the slightly less-obvious-until-you-really-listen (The Knack’s “My Sharona”), the stalkeriffic (the Lady Sings It Better stalker medly includes The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”, Lionel Richie’s “Hello” and the old Aussie classic, Hunters & Collectors’ “Throw Your Arms Around Me”) to the blatant (AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” and Bob Marley/Inner Circle’s “Sweat (A La La La La Long)”), with a few tributes thrown in (to MJ, the booty and horses), nothing is sacred.

The set list allows the singers to demonstrate their range and their talents, especially in terms of their truly complementary voices and vocal styles. They also throw in a little dancing and acting which adds to the feminist commentary on the songs they are singing. There is also a ukelele (for Usher’s “Yeah”).

All in all, I had a great night. I did notice, however, that the audience had a little less energy than during the short set at Cherchez La Femme. This may be because, as they commented during that set, the Cherchez La Femme audience was basically Lady Sings it Better’s target market. But I also wonder if the slightly less formal format (tables and standing room rather than tiered seating in a black-box theatre) suits the show a bit better. Maybe we can see you at The Basement, Lady?

In summary: if you like a little feminist critique with your cover versions, plus a whole lot of laughs and some damn good singing, I cannot recommend Lady Sings it Better highly enough.

They are having a break for the next month, but they are hugely active on social media (especially on facebook and twitter – @lady_sings_it), so it will be quite easy to keep up with their gigs. You have no excuse!

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism

Tags: , , , ,

11 replies

  1. It was 1000000% amazing.

    • I was sorry to miss it! All I got on Saturday night was a gourmet dinner out with my beloved for our anniversary.
      (I was offered comps for Friday night earlier in the week, but what with everything I didn’t chase it up until Friday itself, by which time the comps list had already been sent off, so I missed out and decided it was a sign. I’ll have to catch them after their hiatus.)

  2. I’m still annoyed that I missed it. I spent the night at a pub called the Coq & Balls. I kid you not. Plenty of feminist cred there.
    I’m certainly keen to catch them another time though. That mini set was just divine.

  3. TT, what a terrible consolation prize 😉
    Seriously, though, I hope it went some way towards helping with all the recent shittiness…
    On a different note, something I didn’t want to put in the post but wanted to share nonetheless is this quote from a review, which can be seen on the front page of the LSiB website:

    “Beautiful, talented and fully rounded individuals, hotties even, that embrace and paint the universe a resplendent colour with a minxy from and a cheeky wink… [They] energetically prowl like six sexy and playful kittens, hanging loose in the vibrant land of cabaret.”
    ***** Broadway Baby

    Now, LSiB have put it up on their front page, so maybe they like it – and maybe, in full context, it’s tongue-in-cheek – but I do find it just a touch ironic…

  4. Hopefully I can see them when I’m back in Aus. They sound fun.

  5. Great fun and some serious vocal talent, and I love that they are clearly having so much fun performing!
    My Ms14’s response was a slightly bemused “it was all right” but I’m quite sure I saw her having at least a bit of a giggle during the performance. I don’t think she recognised many of the songs, so perhaps further musical education is required before we see them again 😉

  6. Thanks TT for digging it up – yes, I agree, it’s a pretty awesome review.
    I suspect, then, that they have deliberately chosen the quote for the irony of it (which, I meant to say above, I strongly suspected anyway). Yes, maybe not the best for PR, but definitely a good display of tongue-in-cheek!

  7. Thanks for the lovely review, Jo!
    With regards to the review quote on our website, yes, it’s definitely there in part for humour. I think I also read it differently, having met the reviewer after the show – he was a big queen and so the comment read less as objectifying and more as an appreciation of our crazy, camp, over-the-top femininity when I read it. But I also enjoy the irony of having it up there for our feminist cabaret. And we think it hilarious that anyone would describe us as kittens when our dance style is more piglet. We also get some reviews that seem to genuinely think we CAN’T be feminist and sexy at the same time. “All they do is sing songs about f*cking and swear a lot – that doesn’t sound very feminist to me!” We liked that this quote implies that what we do can be sexy as well, even if his phrasing is dubious.
    Another hard part with promoting this show – and a challenge I haven’t worked out how to deal with – is getting the broad audience that we want to see it. Playing the Vanguard to a room full of feminists is amazing. But it’s something else entirely when we’ve had a room full of straight, middle aged, middle class white couples (at Edinburgh & Adelaide Fringe). They come in expecting sexy cabaret / burlesque and they get something else entirely. But they like it and they get it and it can be quite an amazing thing to watch the comprehension grow on their faces throughout the show. Promoting it by referencing how ‘minxy’ we are gets that audience in. Calling us ‘hilarious, hip’thrusting feminist cabaret’ doesn’t.
    It’s a marketing conundrum.

  8. Thanks Maeve. What you say about the review makes a lot of sense to me (and yes, even in the context of the review as a whole, it reads quite differently), including your comments about marketing. Some tough questions there!

  9. If anyone has a solution to the marketing conundrum, do get in touch! 🙂
    We try to change our tone and language for different publications / audiences. Sometimes we feel a bit clever manipulating people into the audience with the promise of sex then going BAM feminism! But sometimes it feels like we’re playing into some problematic stuff. We figure as long as we never change the show’s content for that audience (which we don’t) we’re walking a line that we’re comfortable with. Also, a lot of the positive feedback from feminists / women / queers we get is about the sexuality in the show, about seeing women of varying sizes thrust and dance about, so we like to push that.

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