Theatre Travels Review by Matthew Hocter | 02 March 2021

I love intimate venues. This Fringe has been a reconnection and a reawakening of sorts and on many levels. The reconnection to my home city after having lived away for so long and the reawakening of far too many things I have suppressed for far too long. Nexus Arts, a sublimely intimate venue nestled in the Lion Arts complex, was home to yet another performance that not only reawakened my senses, but reconnected me with something so much bigger than just the music; culture. First Nation Voices is the brainchild of acclaimed Australian Indigenous artists, Vonda Last, Russell Smith and Glenn Skuthorpe and brings together the stories of their individual communities, whilst finding the connection that many Indigenous Australians share through the movement of mob (people) across the many traditional Nations that lie within modern Australia. After a beautiful Welcome to Country, coupled with the sounds of Smith on the didgeridoo and Skuthorpe on guitar filling the room, Last took to the microphone to sing “Secret River,” allowing for the audience to understand how and why the term “nomadic soul music” exists. With a voice as crisp as a glistening winters morning and a tone that not only gives licence to the genre above, Last captivated the audience from the get go, yet again bringing a sense of emotion that is becoming increasingly rare in live music. As the three interchanged, each displaying their skills, they told stories of connection to country and the connection between country, mob and music. Last told of a recent trip to the Murray where she sat with the Elders yarning (talking) over cups of tea, some who have now passed and whom provided the inspiration for the beautiful song; “River People.” There is something to be said of artists that write their own music such as this trio, especially when the stories are of a people that span 60,000 years of cultural heritage. The sharing of their stories is raw and honest and stories that whilst still rare, are finally gaining traction to be heard. As each artist took their turn to share their stories, it became clear that these stories, which in turn became songs, were more often than not pulled from personal experiences. As the audience heard about the shocking and ever increasing number of young indigenous girls that have gone missing in Northern NSW, it was the song “So Far Away” which paid respect to those that had decided to check out of life, which created a solemn feeling throughout the theatre. A heartfelt and emotional ode to those that didn’t have the strength to fight anymore, which became a space for contemplation as the music engulfed our thoughts and feelings on the subject. Small venues like the Nexus Arts allow for intimacy and given that intimacy has been something that has been so alien to most of us due to the recent pandemic, it was clear to see that it was welcomed with open arms by all in attendance. As the trio continued their story telling and how each was connected to the other, it was something that Smith said as the show came to a close that really resonated with me. “The importance of song and culture and ensuring that gets passed on, is at the very roots of who we are as Aboriginal people.” Tonight, there wasn’t a soul in that room that could say they weren’t touched by the importance of song and culture that has stood and defied the test of time by a group of people who have felt it the most. Aboriginal music in its finest and truest form.

That Entertainment Podcast Review by Andy Le Roy | 17 February 2021

The stage was set, the campfire lit, and the opening-night audience was set for the journey ahead. The debut of First Nation Voices at The Garage International at Adelaide Town Hall delivered on its promise to entertain and evoke familiar and welcome feelings through its combination of personal stories and music. In front of us were three grounded musicians, each with their own unique style that complements each of the others, tied together with fine musicianship from their supporting band members. Far from there being any sense of ego, the Indigenous singer/songwriters Vonda Last, Russell Smith and Glenn Skuthorpe effortlessly wove their personal stories into the fabric of the evening, inviting us to honor whatever memories their stories evoked within us. As they spoke about family, of places and events long gone, but living in their hearts, it was warming to experience similar connections rising in my own mind. From the grace and power of Russell's acknowledgement of Elders past and present at the show's opening, with the ancient tones of his didgeridoo (which he swears is in the key of D!) the scene was set for an evening of stories containing strength, courage and love. The story Vonda shared about her grandmother was particularly striking, and fitting that her song Home should have been inspired by it. The music is second to none, and I couldn't help but wonder if some of Australia's more well-known musicians might have taken their lead from the stylings on offer in this performance. Energetic acoustic sets coupled with songs of more complex and evocative arrangements on guitar and piano showcased what an expanse of talent this country has. First Nation Voices is embarking on its South Australian tour and is well worth your time. Check the tour guide at Fringetix for dates near you and get in early. Listen to my chat with Glenn, Russell and Vonda on That Entertainment Podcast.

The Clothesline Review by David Cronin | 01 March 2021

Nexus Arts at Lion Arts Centre Sun 28 Feb.

A ‘link’ today means that with a click we are transported through a portal into another world in cyberspace; but our link to this land we live in is far more than this. It’s another dimension entirely. In fact, there are so many layers and links that our ‘white’ minds cannot comprehend them. These three indigenous song men and song women have set out to bring us a taste of what true connection to country really feels like. Just as their ancestors and their fathers and mothers before them walked across vast stretches of the Australian deserts, these modern troubadours take their music on the road, visiting probably more venues than most Fringe artists. With strong, soaring voices and an excellent backing band the show mixes stories in among a wide range of music styles. There is less ‘country’ and more gritty city ballads, soulful blues and solid rock rhythms. All are accomplished musicians, accompanied by virtuoso performances from the tight four-piece group, and laid back enough to allow the focus to be the messages in the songs. When these arrangements were pared back to the minimum it allowed the lyrics to shine, while the driving rock beats would have had us all up dancing – if we were allowed to…! Russell Smith’s mastery of the digeridoo/yidaki is impeccable. Its rumble, roar and many added inflections paint a timeless landscape for us to enter. The songs and stories tell of tough times and hardship, of close friends ‘checking out,’ of far too many young girls who go missing. But there’s always cheeky humour to keep moving on, and the support of family bonds that are stronger than we can imagine. Did you know that traditional burning is only now being allowed again? It has taken this long for us to see the rich heritage we have at our doorstep. I’m born and raised in this state and it’s a privilege to finally hear from these local spokespeople.