****.5STARS

By Bronwyn Cook

As Steven Kramer took his seat and started to play, the familiar refrain of….hang on….for a show titled “Don’t Make Me Play Piano Man”…why is he starting with THAT song?

Mind you, he only got a couple of lines in before pulling the pin and saying “Nope, not playing it”.

Musical director and songwriter Kramer premiered his new show as part of Melbourne’s delayed 2021 Midsumma Festival, which usually takes place earlier in the year.

Kramer’s show acts as a dual love story – part to the great piano composers and part to the instrument itself. Which Kramer plays just beautifully, and with such passion and skill – you can tell this is a deep and soulful relationship.

He covers a wide variety of piano maestro material, from Carole King to Nina Simone to Elton John to Glenn Miller, using each song to highlight his life-long relationship with the ivory keys.

I’m always stunned when a song is played on just a piano (or guitar) and it sounds exactly how it is meant to sound. That to me is the hallmark of a well written song. It doesn’t need computers or unnecessary fillers – it stands on its own musically.

And when expertly played, like Kramer does, and with a singing voice that is as smooth as butter and as rich as an expensive cognac, the resulting sound is a pure delight to listen to.

In addition, Kramer is also a deft storyteller and injects several humorous elements, including a group singalong to Queen (in which I’m fairly sure we butchered the lyrics) whilst he played the melodica and a few tortuous versus of THAT OTHER song (“Horses”).

Kramer also treated us to one of his original songs, “Upright Piano”, which starts like an ode to a relationship which it is, just his other relationship.

After a very clever mashup of “Hit The Road Jack” and “Walk on By”, a stunning rendition of “The Luckiest” from Ben Folds, Kramer ends the night on…THAT song.

After all his talk of why piano players dislike that song, he played and sung it just wonderfully.

Sing us another song please Steven.

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