Edinburgh Fringe 2016
A sultry set of b-movie music dramas, with original songs and covers from the Shangri-La’s to Mina Mazzini
Carla Lippis is trying to come to terms with the fact that the upstairs room at the Counting House is smaller than she thought it might be – the sharply-angled eaves of the roof slice away more space, but she perches expertly atop a bar stool while her musician, Geoff Crowther, hunches over his guitar next to her. The room is intimate and quickly takes on the ambience of a sleazy speakeasy as Lippis begins her set with a film-noir take on Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit. You are instantly aware of effortless control and a smoky tone that shifts between Amy Winehouse and Nina Simone with a smattering of Liza Minnelli.
Lippis is Australian, from Adelaide, born to Italian parents. Her jet black hair, cut in a bang and expressive eyes all add to the package – “Let’s continue the drama” she intones – this all about the smoke, the killer glance and stiletto heels. Crowther obliges, his tight choppy guitar riffs softened by occasional tremolo phrases – one or two numbers have a recorded string backing, but his accompaniment complements perfectly Lippis’ Bad Girl persona.
The set is a mix of covers and self-penned material – she met a band of Italian musicians who persuaded her to come to Italy as their vocalist and she stayed, recording with them – and also laying down some solo material. Stand-outs in her original compositions for me were the down and dirty “Son Of A Gun” and passionate “Think Twice”. Mid-way she drops right into dark diva territory with a cover of Mina Mazzini’s “Uno Bacio e troppo poco” – Lippis says she doesn’t speak Italian very well, but she can sing it – she knows this song inside out and it’s poised and heartbreaking. In the build-up Lippis remarks that Mazzini had a baby out of wedlock and Italian society in the 60’s was shocked – as a result she was banned from Italian TV for a while. The song conjures up the anguish that was a key quality of Mina’s performance and Lippis delivers a fine and richly-textured version. The Bad Girl theme continues. As the set opens up, Lippis reveals her range with some beautiful falsetto breaks amidst the delicious raspiness.
Her cover of The Shangri-La’s “Remember” is dark and sultry and she really mines the pain in this 60’s masterpiece – “Then he touched my cheek with his fingertips” – the memory of happier times is riven with the regret of lost love.
Similarly, her penultimate number, Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”, allows Lippis to bare her soul in a beautifully phrased rendition – Crowther’s guitar on this is spot on, the two trading riffs almost as if they’re dancing a tango.
I’d love to see and hear this set in a slightly bigger space, to allow Lippis to occasionally let loose the power that she obviously possesses – but there’s a lot to be said for her beautifully controlled performance in an intimate space – this is a very striking and satisfying hour in her company. There is clearly much more to come from this latter-day bad girl.