“I have a university degree, and I’m here in Adelaide, playing f***ing jazz!,” a mid-song Ian Shaw shouts at the beginning of the show. He returns to tinker some more, lulling the audience back in with sweet jazzy tones, but we are left bemused and slightly on edge, not sure what to expect, or when the next outburst will come.
Indeed, the outbursts are as frequent as they are entertaining. A Bit of a Mouthful is an at-times schizophrenic solo performance from Shaw. He is as deprecating of himself as of just about everything else. Wry wit, shock humour, satire and an endless appreciation of music characterise this performance.
The toss and tumble of Shaw’s set aren’t a problem. While he might suddenly break into a song to shout a Rolf Harris reference, no one minds because it seems perfectly natural. Indeed, it seems the set is cooked up on the fly, as he makes his way through a collection of songs, some homages to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits, some (dark) childhood nostalgia and some contemporary satire.
Almost everything in the performance is tied together with jazz, heightening the impromptu feel of the night, as Shaw scats and doo-bobs his way through these eclectic tunes. Shaw’s voice is worth a mention too. He possesses a wonderful elastic range, able to fling himself from the bottom to the top of the register in a heartbeat, and with great passion.
Expectations should be cast overboard for A Bit of a Mouthful, except for a charmingly irreverent night.