By Susan Mudie
Artist: Le Gateau Chocolat
Date / Venue: Friday June 6th, Town Hall, Auckland
There's a delicious anticipation in waiting for the doors to open to an intimate live performance, at the splendid Auckland Town Hall, in the concert chamber no less.
On this night we were waiting to see Le Gateau Chocolat, the Nigerian born Londoner with a big voice and a penchant for glitter, Lycra, and the power ballad - be it of the pop, musical theatre or operatic variety.
The show that unfolded was cabaret at its best. A low lit, intimate room cut with little jewels of light cast by the lazy arc of a disco ball; a general clatter of excitement from the tables while we waited for him to appear...and appear he does, a glittering column lit by a solo spot light as he moves from the back of the room singing ‘It Was As If We Never Said Goodbye' from Sunset Boulevard, his eyelashes arriving a split second before the rest of him.
Le Gateau Chocolat is a baritone, and a tremendous one. His voice is rich and luxurious and when he sings the words creep like molten chocolate into the corners of the room. But he's more than just a voice. The songs he's chosen resonate through an interpretation full of empathy and tenderness. It's a generous performance as he tells the audience of a past love, and the song from that time that still makes him lose his breath, the lead in to a rendition of Nick Cave's The Ship Song that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
On stage later, sitting at a dressing table looking into the mirror, a pared back Radiohead's ‘Creep' is so filled with longing and the hollow ache of unworthiness that the room goes still.
This is a finely tuned show that uses the juxtaposition of humour and heart to make you think and reflect but not wallow, so from intimate confessionals he will shimmer to Streisand's Don't Rain On My Parade, or get the whole room up on their feet to make us ‘dance like no one's watching' (his direction) while he belts outMadonna's Holiday in a lycra green onesie.
Le Gateau Chocolat says that ‘in a world where everything matters - my size, my colour, my sexuality - on stage I feel invincible'. He embraces the audience in his performance and for a while makes us feel a little more invincible too. To watch him was a sublime, life affirming experience full of playfulness, grace and heart that I'm still smiling about.