Winner of Best Cabaret at the 2014 Adelaide Fringe,
The Sweet Dreams audience is briefly persuaded by Griffiths to act as backup singers on Thorn in My Side. By that point in the evening, we’d follow him to the Royal Mile and support him as a human pyramid.
“My name is Annie Lennox,” says Griffiths, dressed in a crisp white shirt and blue-gray trousers as he sits at his electric piano at the top of the 50-minute show. He speaks and sings in his own warm, Aussie-accented baritone throughout the affectionate tribute, employing the same no-nonsense, no-drag as in his 2013/14 Edinburgh Fringe hit, the much cheekier (and less reverent), In Vogue: Songs by Madonna.
Between tunes, the well-edited first-person narrative (written and directed by Dean Bryant) focuses on Lennox’s personal growth through decades of dicey romantic entanglements, with an emphasis on her four-year relationship with Eurythmics partner Dave Stewart. Biographical facts are laced with bursts of clever banter, like this about Lennox’s introduction to a new boyfriend: “He came by the vegetarian café … where I was sorting rhubarb.”
As Griffiths sings his fresh, often unusually plaintive arrangements of Why, Here Comes the Rain Again, Walking on Broken Glass and a dozen others, you’ll hear the words land differently from when they were Top 10 hits. Griffiths is a masterful interpreter of Lennox’s superb lyrics and melodies. Slowed down and played just with piano, her songs have an almost Sondheim-y literary quality. She tells deeply personal stories of love, loss and inner strength in her music, and she does it with an open-hearted confidence few other female singer-songwriters have equaled. (Maybe Carole King. Definitely Joni Mitchell.)
Griffiths sneaks in some of his own autobio material, explaining how he grew to love Lennox’s music as a kid with a record player. “Remember the excitement of dropping the needle [on a new LP]? That little crackle of suspense?” Yes, some of us do.
The Sweet Dreams audience, arranged on semi-circular rows of benches inside the new Bosco venue at Assembly George Square Gardens, is briefly persuaded by Griffiths to act as backup singers on Thorn in My Side. By that point in the evening, we’d follow him to the Royal Mile and support him as a human pyramid.
The guy is a hell of a pianist and singer – that baritone of his can jump right into an impressive falsetto when necessary – but his comic timing and personal charm are what elevate this above typical ‘and then she wrote’ cabaret/revue fare. Sweet and dreamy indeed. Would I lie to you?