As they say about stage presence (or as Stanislavski called it, stage charm), either you got it or you aint. Well, Archie Roach has got it, both the presence and the charm. He walks onto the stage all alone, a yellow scarf casually placed about his shoulders, sits on a stool, sips from a bottle of water, and the audience is entranced. They wait silently for that unique gravelly/crystal voice to boom out, and when it does, there are already people on their feet.
In this concert, Archie Roach presented the songs from his new album, Into the Bloodstream; a beautiful combination of the sorts of sounds fans are accustomed to, balanced with just the right amount of new sound.
The show and the album are about Roach’s early childhood at the Rumbalara Mission, and of course about being part of that infamous stolen generation, heading down the wrong tracks in life, and finding his soul mate and life partner, the late Ruby Hunter.
Much of the talk between the songs is about Ruby. It is impossible not to see how much Roach misses her, in fact how he seems to be able to come to grips with all the dark parts of his life except for the loss of the woman who was such a part of him.
But lest it be thought this was a sombre occasion, one needs to quickly point out that in fact it was a celebration, of her life, of the life of the myriad performers who enter the stage slowly as the concert unfolds, including Jack Charles and Rachael Maza, and of the trek of the Aboriginal people of Australia. When Roach says ‘don’t think about how far we have to go, but how far we have come,’ there was not an audience member who didn’t respond to his charismatic and self contained wisdom.
Production values were superb. Sound was perfect, as was the mixing. Up stage visuals were muted and in keeping with the show, without the risk of stealing focus. And the gentle, natural direction of the many singers, dancers and musicians was seamless and a visual and auditory delight. A special treat was the unexpected appearance of Vicka and Linda Bull.
The night went too quickly. Ten out of ten.
Archie Roach in Concert – Into the Bloodstream
State Theatre, Sydney
Sydney Festival 2013
5 – 27 February