Mark Wilkinson Supported by Kelly Menhennett.
Thursday 26th April 2018. The Wheatsheaf Hotel.
National award winner, Kelly Menhennett was the opening act on this night. This soul/roots/alt-country singer/songwriter is one quality performer. From the moment she opens her mouth to sing, the crowd are hooked.
Menhennett is captivating. Her voice has previously been described as a cross somewhere between Erma Franklin and Etta James. If those two legendary performers were here today, I think they both would be proud to be described as having a voice like Kelly Menhennett.
In 2010 Menhennett released her debut album ‘WORLD OF MINE’ to critical acclaim. (Named by Rhythm Magazine as one of the top 10 albums for 2011). Her voice then was sublime, sweet and smooth which perfectly suited the gypsy/jazz style of the album.
The few years between ‘WORLD OF MINE’ and her latest album ‘SMALL DREAMS’ have matured her voice – much like aging a fine wine – those few years have seen it become fuller and more rounded.
Treating us to some of the songs from her latest album ‘SMALL DREAMS’ which won the ARBA 2014/15 ‘Best roots album’ award. Kelly’s incredible vocal ability and accomplished acoustic playing, transfixed the crowd. Her solo performance was nothing short of superb. Some of the crowd were only there to see the headline act Mark Wilkinson and were blown away by the fact that they hadn’t heard Kelly sing before. It was quite obvious that Kelly Menhennett made some new fans this night.
Songs such as ‘World of mine’ and the Irma Thomas number ‘It’s raining’, hooked the crowd immediately. The up-tempo ‘Lone tree’ held them transfixed, and ‘Small Dreams’ followed by ‘Cannonball’ converted the whole room into Kelly Menhennett fans.
Menhennett has a way of quietly engaging with her audience. Her warm nature shines through and she makes the crowd feel as though they are old friends. Her anecdotes between songs give us an enticing glimpse into her world and her motivation for song writing.
It was obvious that the crowd wasn’t going to let Kelly get down off stage without an encore, and even after she had obliged we all still wanted more. It was a stellar performance from a world class performer.
Check out Kelly’s page : http://www.kellymenhennett.com/
Headline act Mark Wilkinson took the stage from 9:30 pm. This is the second week of Wilkinsons ‘WASTED HOURS’ tour, which takes in venues across Australia throughout April and May 2018.
This quiet, unassuming man, has a talent which deserves to be heard, and heard in larger venues than the Wheatsheaf Hotel, but oh how grateful were the audience that Mark plays places such as this.
The back room at the Wheatsheaf, has a homely feel to it. The crowd gets comfortable in various lounge chairs, and seated around tables that remind one of a home BBQ setting. Wilkinson likes his audience to feel comfortable and enjoys that warm friendly mood, and that’s exactly the atmosphere created by the ‘Wheaty’.
‘WASTED HOURS’ is Wilkinson’s 6th full length album, and along with his other 4 EP’s it produces some incredible, soul searching and heart wrenching numbers. Wilkinson is a master of portraying emotion through his songs.
Opening with ‘Colder Nights’ from the new album, he starts us on an emotional roller coaster. Moving into ‘Don’t say it’ Wilkinson starts the song by laying down a gentle looping backing track. His rich vocal tones and his subtle play on certain phrases conveys the songs message straight to your heart.
As Wilkinson launched into ‘First Dance’ from the 2011 album ‘TRUTH CAME RUNNING’ which tells the story of clumsiness felt by a man wanting to impress the love of his life. And then quickly followed by the haunting ‘Man In The Window’ from the 2012 album ‘HAND PICKED’. You could have heard a pin drop in the audience. The respect and total attention they gave to Mark as he shared just a small sample from his enormous body of work, was intense. But that’s what Mark Wilkinson’s songs do, they invoke emotion, they grab you, and hold you, and don’t let go until Wilkinson lets you go, and even then you don’t want to be let go. You just want this feeling to last.
Wilkinson retuned and detuned his guitar many times during the night to suit the variety of tunings needed for different songs. And the audience sang along dutifully with na na’s to the upbeat anthem, ‘When The Armies Arrive’. He doesn’t need to try too hard, to interact with the crowd between numbers, his songs speak to them more than mere words alone.
‘Middle ground’ the famous song used in the Nescafe coffee Ad, to portray a father and daughter recalling past memories, melted hearts at the Wheatsheaf on this night. When Mark began the song there was a collective sigh of genuine affection from the audience for the man, and his songs.
The Roxette cover ‘It must have been love’ was a surprise inclusion in a set of original songs but Wilkinson made this song his own too. With that special voice and exceptional talent of phrasing words in a particular way, Mark Wilkinson owned this song from the first note to the last.
Wilkinson shared so many hits with this appreciative crowd ‘Benny’s On The Rooftop’ ‘Time Machine’ ‘All I Ever Wanted’ ‘Cellophane Life’. On a night filled with favourite songs, sung by one of the worlds’ best singer/songwriters, how do you single out a favourite among favourites? For me it was ‘Another Necklace’ the poignant message delivered by this song makes it a stand out.
Mark Wilkinson tried to finish his set with ‘Please Don’t Tempt Me’ the story of lack of self-control. But of course an encore was needed, as the crowd just couldn’t get enough, and the final number left in the hearts and minds of the Wheatsheaf crowd, was the beautiful ‘Love high’.
Marks tour info can be found at: https://www.markwilkinsonmusic.com/tour
An exceptional night of incredible music, from two of the most talented performers it has been my pleasure to listen to.