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Live Review: Meg Washington @ Hamer Hall

10 February 2024 | 9:43 am | Michael Prebeg

Meg Washington joins the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for a special performance showcasing new material and shining a different light on some of the best songs from her catalogue.

Meg Washington & Melbourne Symphony Orchestra @ Hamer Hall

Meg Washington & Melbourne Symphony Orchestra @ Hamer Hall (Michelle Pitiris)

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As the orchestra strikes up and Meg Washington begins to sing Catherine Wheel, fans may not recognise it right away because tonight’s interpretation with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is an entirely unique interpretation of the song to give it a whole new life. We’re mesmerised from the first note as it all comes together beautifully with every instrument that is paired meticulously with Washington’s superb vocals.

“Sometimes like this, I don’t know what to say. The whole world feels tight as a drum, but I don’t want this moment to pass by without saying that I see all of this very clearly as the gift that it is, so thank you very much,” Washington says as she addresses the audience after a few more songs including Sunday Best, Saint Lo and Achilles Heart. 

We instantly fell in love all over again with these new iterations of her beloved work, and we became immersed in the kinetic energy of Skeleton Key and How To Tame Lions, which were treated to a powerful symphonic orchestral experience.

After a short intermission, Washington resumes solo at the piano for One For Sorrow and debuts a brand-new unreleased song called Poetry Motion. The heartfelt track taken from her anticipated forthcoming album is a love song showcasing her brilliant songwriting and sublime vocals.

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra joins back in with her for her favourite song (Lobster), which she reveals was written about her son when he was not quite two. The gentle and personal track was written for a Hush Foundation compilation album and originally recorded in collaboration with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, so it’s a fitting song to add to tonight’s setlist. 

“I have been writing show tunes and calling them pop songs for a long time, and people have bought it until it came time to arrange my songs for the symphony orchestra,” Washington jokes. “This process has revealed them to be what they truly are, which is some sort of musical theatre,” she adds.

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The next song, she explains, is less musical theatre and more like a movie for our ears. The arrangement is an epic cinematic version of Cement and demonstrates Washington’s genre-defying, dynamic artistry on another level.

A new song called Honeysuckle Island starts off with Washington solo on guitar as she sings about living on a tropical island. This experimental version has the orchestra come in mid-way through like a tidal wave that roars up and crashes over. We feel the power of the instrumental wash over us with a big crescendo before it recedes quietly towards the end. 

A quick outfit change into a sparkling jazz number for the final couple of songs adds to the brightness in the room alongside the mirror ball that lowers to reflect shimmering lights. Batflowers serves as the last track before a breathtaking encore of Lazarus Drug to conclude the incredible musical collaboration that leaves a lasting impression on fans, new and old.