Published on theMusic.com.au, Nov 2018
Pic by Dana Weeks
Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends
“A spirited evening of music and literature.” That’s the tagline on the poster for Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends’ Australian tour, with many immediately drawn to a certain name and his image before taking a step back to figure out exactly what was on offer.
Many film icons of Murray’s calibre and vintage set out on “An Evening With” tours, but when you think about it, a show that features the Ghostbusters star reciting classic poetry and great American literature and singing classic songs, backed by a captivating chamber orchestra, is probably the best representation of Bill Murray on stage you could expect.
The evening began with a comical message from Murray about ensuring mobile phones were switched off and shortly after his arrival on stage it was clear why.
Walking out with renowned Chinese-American violinist Mira Wang and Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez, Murray stood tall and imposing and began reciting classic American literature to a deadly silent crowd. The audience was hanging off every word, and at its finish, German cellist and Murray’s creative partner, Jan Volver, joined the party, with the band embarking on a classical journey that captured the essence of the powerful words that had just been delivered.
The show continued to play out in a similar fashion, with Murray delivering works from Twain, Hemingway, Whitman and more and the band offering up music from the likes of Ravel, Schubert, Saint-Saëns and Bach in support.
“The worst is over,” Murray joked after the band had settled in. “But if you want to leave now, we’d totally understand.”
It was his largely-than-life personality that kept the show alive, and there was plenty of humour on offer; from renaming Rottnest Island’s Quokkas to “Quokkos” (“They couldn’t have been sweeter… or more delicious.”), to pulling Perez’s local paper turner to centre stage for a dance, Murray was on fire.
His infectious energy was truly on show during classic songs The Piano Has Been Drinking by Tom Waits, in which he ended up sitting on the piano after downing a healthy amount of whisky, and It Ain’t Necessarily So, which had the entire audience singing along.
Murray may not have the greatest singing voice (as evident in My Girl), but that’s what adds to the show’s charm; Murray comes across as a relatable and fun guy who is easy to connect with.
While it was during these collective singalongs that the room was filled with the most energy, it was when Murray was reading works like The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, playing four different characters, that the night truly found its stride, with many audience members transported to another place.
That’s not to say the band didn’t have their time in the spotlight, with Murray vacating the stage (or more appropriately, hiding behind the piano from time to time), to let the mind-blowingly talented musicians on stage unleash.
Given the show’s unique structure and it’s accompanying parts, it’s hard to know who will get the most out of it, but that’s what makes it so great; it brings together people who wouldn’t normally find themselves in the same room. It’s a bold celebration of art, life and friendship.