Anybody with even the slightest interest in Paul McDermott’s career to date knows the man can sing. From his early work with the Doug Anthony All Stars to his later comedy trio GUD and work on The Sideshow and Good News Week, McDermott’s never shied away from an opportunity to belt out a tune.
But why, almost 30 years into his career, has the performer decided to stage a show revolving entirely around his original compositions? He ponders the question himself, shrugging and saying “people always tell me, ‘you should fuckin’ sing more. So I am.”
Paul Sings, a show McDermott premiered in the Spiegeltent during last year’s Comedy Festival, isn’t a comedy show. Nor is it strictly musical.
It’s a collection of almost 10 songs, mostly serious and often touching, performed live by McDermott and a highly competent four-piece band led by acclaimed jazz pianist Stu Hunter. Most of the songs have been performed publicly just once before, and were custom-written to fill time on one of the performer’s TV projects.
McDermott’s voice remains truly gorgeous, and it’s interesting to hear him rebuke claims he’s a musician. He just gets harmonies in his head all the time, he says, and needs ‘real’ musicians around to help him figure them out.
In between tracks, McDermott shares some rambling anecdotes: stories about recording a studio album with the All Stars, the paper-thin walls at his Melbourne hotel and a particularly long story involving Marina Prior, KISS singer Paul Stanley and dry humping (it’ll make sense when you hear it).
The most thrilling bit comes after an hour, when McDermott grumpily says the venue will soon pull the plug for the show running overtime. “So I’m leaving, and you may choose to follow me, and we may end up in [adjacent] Hosier Lane,” he says, stressing that for OH&S reasons the ‘official’ show is over.
So McDermott leads several hundred people out of the theatre like the Pied Piper, to the laneway where everybody crowds around and he and the band perform an additional two tracks sans microphones and speakers. The grin on McDermott’s face matches those in the crowd – it’s a pretty special way to end a night.