MELBOURNE FRINGE: Music journalist and emerging comic Al Newstead attempts his ‘difficult second album’ in this all-singing, all-dancing, all-stand-upping show.
A smash debut album is a horrible thing for an artist. Sure, the glory, the adoration, the ego-trip are all very nice things, but then what happens? We get over it! And then we want more! We demand more!
Artist: “But I made you laugh and dance and cry and re-evaluate the whole point of your life!”
Public: “Doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t do it AGAIN. But do it a bit differently this time. OK?”
So this is where Al Newstead has found himself. He’s only had four months to write the anticipated follow-up to his 2010 Melbourne Fringe Festival debut (remounted to great acclaim at the 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival), which sold out (in the good way) and received fantastic reviews. He needn’t have worried; his rant is still energised by a very real hatred for the state of the contemporary music scene, yet at the same time soothed by those rare moments he finds something that “means something” – even if that’s just a vocal line that hasn’t been auto-tuned to death. It’s still an entertaining subject, and lord knows there’s plenty to moan about.
The rant starts in Al’s head, where anxiety and fear bubble ferociously, crippling his confidence. It’s a cute start, and if the intention is to get the audience’s sympathy and be given some mercy in getting over the ‘sophomore slump’, he certainly achieves it. He’s taken the cheat’s way out, in a way, by starting his second album talking about the success of his first – reassuring us that he knows what he’s doing, or at least he did know at one time. However he never borrows material from his 2010 rant, he’s merely leapfrogging from one show to the next.
Guided by revoltingly arrogant/misguided/just plain stupid quotes from various musicians, Al’s Music Rant moves quickly through some really funny material. His impression of The Kooks’ Luke Steele as a dummy-spitting three year old is brilliant, as is his ‘27 Club’ medley, inspired by the recent death of Amy Winehouse. And a show like this just could not get away with not mentioning Rebecca Black, whose ‘hit’ ‘Friday’ deserves every ounce of ridicule it gets.
There was so much passionate agreement going on amongst the audience that a rambunctious “Hallelujah, brother!” would have raised fists to the air long before it raised any eyebrows. It was exhilarating, seeing someone rant – sometimes rage – about all those niggly little annoyances we all have (and if we don’t have, we most certainly should) about the Contemporary Commercial Music Monster. That being said, you don’t need to have a PhD in Pop Culture to enjoy this show. The references are easy to pick up and always funny, and Al’s actually a surprisingly good musician himself. For those of you who despair about the state of the arts, you might just find yourself a new leader in Al Newstead.
Rating: Three and a half stars
Al’s Music Rant – The Difficult Second Album
The Glasshouse Hotel, Collingwood
September 23 – October 8
Melbourne Fringe Festival
September 21 – October 9
First published on
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