Helen Perris & Friends (7-3-2015)

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Photos by KLE Photography and Design

Helen Perris recently started her Pozible campaign to fund her debut album, following the successful campaigns for her two EPs Flesh and Oneiro. To celebrate the beginning of the long process of writing and recording, Helen decided to give fans a sneak peak of the upcoming album, by hosting a little gig at The Newsagency with  Bryce Halliday, Kira Leiva & Keira Daley. For a gig such as this, The Newsagency was the perfect venue. The intimate venue is one of the few (possibly only) venues in Sydney where it is all about the music – so it really was a no brainer to showcase her new music here with a handful of fans and friends.

The night was split into four parts. There was no messing around here. It was go big or go home and Helen certainly didn’t go home, as she opened the night with her brand new tracks – tracks that she hadn’t played really all that much, but she was sharing them anyway. The first thing Helen said when she sat behind the piano was “I’m a little nervous”. It didn’t show. Opening with what is to be the first single off the album “Mirrors am Windows” straight away I noticed a difference from her previous EPs. There was definite growth heard in Oneiro from Flesh, and Helen has once again showed continued growth and strength as a singer/songwriter with her debut album (and I’ve only heard one song so far!). “Mirrors and Windows” is filled with strength and emotion, and as Helen shared that all of her song are based on life experiences – you can hear courage within the track. Courage to share her story, courage to learn and grow, and courage to triumph.

From the new songs Helen shared, the album is set to be a lot stronger than what we’ve heard before. And although her songs are often very emotional and tend to pull at the old heart strings, it just wouldn’t be right if there was no humour. “Unrequited Love” (I think that’s what the song was called – forgive me if I’m wrong) brought the mood up as the song tells the story of Helen’s poor gaydar, and her experience of unfortunately going after gay men.

The first guest of the night was one of Helen’s students Kira Leiva, who was rather incredible. I don’t know how much experience Kira has in performing, and she did look a little nervous during the first song, but she didn’t let her nerves stand in the way of giving  a great performance. Her voice filled the room and has that 1920’s jazz singer feel to it. I could definitely see Kira performing in a jazz bar of yesteryear. Her nerves appeared to ease a little as she continued, and her duet with Helen as they sang Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” saw those nerves disappear further. Comedian and musician Bryce Halliday was up next and I am sad to say that this was the first time I heard of him. Instantly I could see that Bryce was one of those insanely talented people who make everything look easy, and then make you hate yourself because you can barely sit at a piano correctly, let alone play. His voice was strong and smooth like white chocolate (I’ve always wanted to use a simile like that) seriously though, he has one of the strongest voices I’ve heard in a long time, and his skills on the piano were breathtaking. I was mesmerised watching how fast his fingers moved across the keys and his piano solo was pretty damn amazing. Not only that, the man is funny. Bryce is a triple threat and I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for future gigs.  Helen also joined Bryce for a duet – this time singing the much loved “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers. A few words were forgotten here and there, but that’s alright. Helen and Bryce’s voices were great together and who doesn’t love 500 Miles?

I had heard the name Keira Daley and I had heard of Slapdash Song Night, but I had never been or heard anything by Keira Daley, so this truly was a night of firsts for me. I just have to say  that Keira Daley is hilarious, and it is no wonder Helen falls into fits of hysterics when she is around. Keira and Helen were also going to sing a song together, but this one was a little different. Not only had they just practiced it during soundcheck, but the only reason they decided to do this particular song was because they were drunk. And you know, all great decisions are made when drunk. So that is why they got up on that stage and sang Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Despite neither Helen or Keira identifying much with the diva persona, both prefer to think of themselves as dorks, their talent outshined it all, and they nailed the song. Proving that maybe not all drunken decisions are bad – provided you have the talent to back it up.

One of my favourite moments of the night had to be when Keira Daley performed her song “Boning.” I had absolutely no idea what to expect from Keira. And what we got was nothing short of brilliant. We were first asked to vote on what kind of song we wanted to hear: adventure or nostalgia. I chose nostalgia and luckily nostalgia won. I’m willing to bet the adventure voters were happy too. We were then told that the nostalgia track was a song in the style of  Salt-N-Pepa, and then we found it was called “Boning”. That just screams brilliant. And then what happened next I will never forget. Keria Daley is a self-proclaimed lady nerd and looks like your average white lady. But when the backing track for “Boning”started, she transformed. She can most definitely bust a rhyme and her talent doesn’t just lie in diva hits, Lady Nerd can rap. There was even a dance break! It was just brilliant. It was all done for fun and it was obvious she isn’t afraid to laugh at herself – and that’s what made it great. She just went up there and owned that stage. I wouldn’t have the guts to do it, but I am certainly glad she did.

Before the night was over Helen returned this time to play some old stuff, along with a song she wrote for Alison Avron, and a song about drinking that she wrote in about 40 minutes for a Slapdash comedy night. It was great to hear favourites like “Dancing Around The Subject” and “Damaged” and of course it was awesome to be able to hear the new tracks. I’ve seen Helen perform a few times now, and she never disappoints. Whether she is making the audience laugh with her tongue-in-cheek humour, or holding your attention with the depth and emotion of her more serious tracks, you are always entertained. Helen is a performer at heart and it definitely shows. From this short preview of her new album, I can tell that the album won’t disappoint. I sincerely hope it gets funded.

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