Max Savage knows Adelaide and, more importantly, knows how to reflect her in poetry and song.
Nobody Knows My Name was a local highlight of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival because, for one of the first times ever, Adelaide was the centre of a show that had universal appeal and was devoid of any awkward jingoism that a lesser writer might resort to.
This was international cabaret meets Adelaide’s story and whether it was Max’s voice, the band’s playing, the atmosphere of the Spiegeltent, the hour, the location, or all of the above, Max Savage espoused the sultry stylings of his poetry and surely through the darkness the “mundane” of Adelaide indeed became mysterious.
Adelaide is one of those cities that braces itself for summer and is often caught short by winter (the opposite of London), so Max was right to open with a poem in which he observed that it was a Sunday night in the middle of winter but we were all still here.
And we remained with him and his band throughout the 70 minutes of jazz/blues and spoken word poetry as Max tipped his hat towards Adelaide’s many components such as coffee, Mawson Street, terrazzo flooring, and the water and the sky.
Max changed moods and tempos throughout the show, reflecting the patchwork of moods and tempos that make up the suburbs of this town. And amid his emotional recounting of relationships past, stirring tribute to Hard Times, and fond remembering of icons, Max still managed to lament some unfortunate changes afoot, noting we were gathered a stone’s throw from the bust of suffragette Mary Lee and the place where public baths once stood and which will soon be host to a multistory casino hotel.
Max held court, at times evoking Paul Kelly and Vince Jones, at other times Tom Waits, but at all times, Max Savage. Indeed, Adelaide deserves to lose Max Savage to the world. Those of us who know and support him (The Adelaide Show podcast team and my colleague on ABC Adelaide Peter Goers) marvel and despair that he is still here and still approachable.
It is true and profoundly sad that in relation to too many South Australians, Max Savage can dedicate his powerful song, Nobody Knows My Name.
May the Adelaide Cabaret Festival performance be the line in the sand, after which Australia (and the world) will know Max Savage’s name!