Sylvia Cornes. Photo – Kaleb Woodward

Sylvia Cornes certainly looked the part of Rickie Lee Jones with a sheer black mesh dress, a top hat with feathers and bare feet. She was accompanied by an outstanding group of WAAPA graduates—Thomas Freeman on guitar, Wayan Biliondana on double bass and guitar, Will Britto on piano and Liam Hickey on drums.

Cornes said she was nervous and it’s understandable as Rickie Lee Jones has inspired slavish devotion in her fans. Her highly original songs and spoken/sung delivery are unique. Her lyrics are deeply personal storytelling. In short you either love her or you don’t like her music at all. With her ethereal soprano vocals, jazz-inspired tunes and unique sense of style, Jones was an iconic figure of the alt/pop music scene of the 70s and 80s.

Cornes began her first number with a slightly sharper tone than the original, who I was lucky enough to see at the Perth Concert Hall many years ago. However she relaxed into her role and her voice softened considerably and was at times, superb. Her timing was faultless.

The script by Cornes was excellent and well told. It was an entrancing tale. Rickie Lee Jones’s father taught her to play guitar and wrote a lullaby to send her off to sleep as a child. The Moon is Made of Gold was very often the opening number in Jones’s live concerts. At 16 she hit the road and hitchhiked her way to California. Young Bloods is a sample of the street life she encountered in Los Angeles. Singing in bars and clubs by night, by day she wrote songs in a room above café called Danny’s which segued into to Cornes terrific rendition of Danny’s All Star Joint.

Cornes worked the room effortlessly in a clever version of Easy Money. We played along with verve.

By 1977 Jones was working the legendary Troubadour club, had a first album out and was awarded Best New Artist in the1980 Grammy Awards. Tom Waits was in the audience at the Troubadour and as he said “Fell in love with her at first sight”. They bonded and were inseparable for the next two years. Jones’s sudden rise to fame was so stressful she resorted to heroin, which caused the passionate romance to end. Her heartbreak album was call Pirates, after a group of marijuana dealers she met in New Orleans on tour in 1981. Later Jones moved to Paris, married and had a child, a girl called Charlotte. Inspired by Charlotte’s free spirit Jones composed Riding on the Horses. Just like her mother whose free spirit never left her.

The audience, smaller than usual due to covid restrictions, were clearly aficionados and responded with enthusiasm to the show and the individual solos by the talented team of musicians. Audiences will have one more chance to catch this excellent production on Thursday 21 January at 8.30pm.

Event details

Perth Fringe World 2021
We Belong(ed) Together
The Rickie Lee Jones Story

Venue: The Ellington Jazz Club | 191 Beaufort Street, Perth, WA
Dates: 20 – 21 January 2021
Tickets: $28 – $23


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