Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Banquet Room
Until 10 Jun 2018

Review by John Wells

The long-dead Janis Joplin was wild, raucous and intense. Booze-soused, fired by stimulants too many to note, and blessed with an amazing ability to connect with an audience, Joplin’s star blazed and burned itself out. She died of a heroin overdose in a Hollywood motel room in 1970, leaving behind a clutch of now-classic songs full of raw emotion and immediacy.

I suspect Joplin would have taken one look at the staid, politely middle-class audience in the Festival Centre Banquet Room, and opened another bottle of Southern Comfort. Amber Martin – a little wobbly from jet-lag, not moonshine – takes the quiet crowd by the scruff of the neck and fills the room with energy and passion.

Martin is outstanding. This cabaret show relies principally on Martin’s skill and performance. While there are a few biographical snippets, and a few personal reflections, Joplin’s songs are the prime focus. And what a superlative performance she gives: Martin’s beautiful, precise voice captures all the fervour and desire of Joplin’s hits. “Little Girl Blue”, “Piece of My Heart” and the rousing, almost celebratory closer, “Me and Bobby McGee” are wonderful highlights. Martin is supported by a very tight band (with three Adelaide musos), who, despite minimal rehearsal, provide brilliant support.

By the end of the show, and by Martin’s sheer exuberance and infectious glee, the crowd is cheering, hooting and standing. Janis is alive and well and in amazing voice.