A few things are certain every festive season. You’ll gain at least two kilograms over Christmas then vow to lose them on New Year’s Day. You’ll get far too drunk on Christmas Day to withstand your more irritating relatives.
And, in a happier certainty, Renée Geyer will perform her now-traditional clutch of post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s Eve shows.
This year, Geyer extends the tradition further, sneaking in a gig at Melbourne’s Trak Lounge on December 2 before she heads north for a show at Sydney’s Vault 146 on December 28 and arrives in her “musical home” at The Basement for performances on December 29 and 30.
As expected of the seasoned soul singer, who’s always been able to draw a decent crowd regardless of the success or otherwise of her most recent record (Geyer hasn’t released an album of all-new material in more than four years), she has very specific tastes when it comes to the venues she’ll perform in.
“Most rock and roll venues are dumps, but the ones I’m playing in are not, and we’d really love to fill them,” she told the Star Observer, her trademark husky rasp relayed down the phone line from her Melbourne home.
“I’m a true believer that if people know about something and they’re a fan, they’ll go.
“For me, if people can sit down and have a drink or a meal if they choose while they watch the show, I know it’ll go well. That’s how I like to see a show, and I don’t think it’s an age thing — I think people just want to be comfortable.
“And in that environment, everyone’s very respectful. We start up and they listen. I don’t have any trouble trying to quiet everyone down. Maybe I’ve just got a louder voice than everyone,” she laughed.
2011 marks the 13th year of Geyer’s now-traditional festive season Basement shows. She said many audience members marked it as a part of their holiday season, with some coming every year.
“It started ages ago with the idea of doing a couple of nights between Christmas and New Year’s. At first, I was tentative, but every year it’s proved me wrong. There’s an awful lot of people who have absolutely nothing to do in that time.”
Geyer will perform a few of her favourite jazz standards but not as we know them — expect interesting, dark Renée-esque takes on the songs. Also expect, of course, a selection of the songs that have made her famous.
“Every year, we always do the ones everyone would expect to hear — Man’s World, Heading in the Right Direction, Say I Love You. There are always renditions of other people’s songs, including a few Paul Kelly songs.
“We might do a version of a real R&B classic, then a few of my original co-writes. But we don’t have a setlist.”
No setlist? Really?
“Well, we have an opening song and a closing song, and as for the rest of them, I call them depending on the audience. Every night is totally different.”
In a lesser performer’s hands, such reckless abandon might be a recipe for disaster. But, as Geyer explained, the free-form flow helped her stay alert and engaged with the material at hand.
“It’s so important that I enjoy it each night that I wouldn’t be doing any of this if I didn’t.
“At the moment, the logistics of it all are very tiring and I’m over that — the flying around, the travelling, the picking up bags — that’s worn me down because I haven’t been well the last few years [Geyer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009], although I’m on the mend.
“But the minute I get on stage and the music starts, I come alive. When that feeling stops, I’m finished.”
Once the shows are out of the way, she’ll start work on a new album, to be released in 2012. She was reticent to reveal any details because “by the time the thing’s finished, it’s usually completely different from what
I’d originally thought of,” but she did insist on imparting one last morsel of information.
“I should let people know that I’ll wear my hair out this time. All these people after the last round of shows kept complaining that I wore my hair in a ponytail, so I’ll let it run free this time.
“That’s a very big point, that’s the biggest point of the article,” she cackled.
“The hair is a metaphor for how the show will be. It’ll be everywhere!”
INFO: Renée Geyer is touring in December. Find out more at www.reneegeyer.com.au