Lisa Simone - Keeper Of The Flame

Lisa Simone Keeper Of The Flame Cabare Festival 2024Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Festival Theatre. 22 Jun 2024


It’s always a big load to carry, being the child of a revered artist when you’re working in the same field. Lisa Simone carries this weight well, perhaps because she doesn’t try to be her mother, Nina Simone. Comparisons are artistically odious, and in this instance, there isn’t much in terms of their vocals to compare them. The timbre and throaty nuances of Nina’s contralto simply aren’t present which makes it simpler to consider Lisa on her own merits, albeit while performing songs that Nina made famous.


Lisa was a latecomer to a singing career, spending 10 or so years in the military, and has enjoyed a very successful career on Broadway (Rent, Aida, The Lion King) and recorded a number of albums. This tour is very much dedicated to her mother’s body of work; Keeper Of The Flame was recorded by Nina in 1967 and is a most appropriate name for the show.

The program began with an extended instrumental number from the 16-piece band, who tested themselves out with various instrumental solos, while still paying very close attention to their chord charts. This made for a bit of a stilted beginning, but it is difficult to have a free-swinging vibe when you’re just not used to playing together.


Simone came on to sing the eponymous opener, and the softly spoken singer quickly won over the audience as she went on to tell anecdotes, jokes and some lengthy stories between songs. All the favourite standards were there: Fine and Mellow, Gal From Joe’s, Pay’em No Mind and audience participation came in Go To Hell, while band members also got to perform a few scheduled solos, a highlight being James Muller’s guitar solo in the blues Do I Move You.


After a brief interval, Lisa was back with a very up-tempo version of Mood Indigo, and then went on to perform some of the greatest songs that form Nina’s legacy. Black Is The Color (of my true love’s hair), My Baby Just Cares For Me, Feelin’ Good and I Put A Spell On You. She then placed her own stamp on the concert by closing with her own Finally Free, really showcasing the voice (and amazing breath control) that has won her accolades and award nominations on Broadway.


This carefully and closely curated show pays homage to the late and great Nina Simone, and at the same time allows Lisa Simone to come out from under that shadow, showing that she is a performer in her own right. It would be great to see her let loose and get a bit of improv happening on stage; for this performance however, the audience was more than happy to listen, sing along at times, and give this talented performer a standing ovation. A good close to a fabulous festival.


Arna Eyers-White


When: 22 Jun

Where: Festival Theatre

Bookings: Closed