Doghouse, Brisbane, 1 Nov 1997

ON a weekend, venues generally attract crowds of people wanting to do one of two things: drink or smoke heavily, and create some sort of disturbance. On this particular evening, however, the mood inside the Doghouse is relatively sombre and it is almost 11pm before the first signs of Deborah Conway’s presence begain to be felt.
The air is becoming more and more difficult to breathe, and a mediocre support band have just about worn out their welcome with the crowd at the packed jazz venue when Willy Zygier and the band take to the stage, signalling Deborah’s imminent arrival.
It has been quite sometime since we were last able to see Deborah live, and in that time her aesthetic beauty (although unimportant) seems to have become even startlingly more apparent. It is certainly in person that her true gorgeousness shines through as her self-deprecating sense of humour blends effortlessly with that flawless, creamy complexion; dark hair and ruby red lips.
Likewise, the by-now well documented red gown is Deborah down to the ground. As she gently strokes her growing belly and jokes with the crowd (“Yes folks, I HAVE had sex!”), it is clear that she is at her happiest, healthiest and clearly most confident.
Over the ensuing two hours, Deborah delves into a back catalogue that delights devotees and seems to win acclaim with recent converts. The lush tunes of My Third Husband go down a treat live and two older numbers, String of Pearls and White Roses, were particularly spellbinding. Indeed, even the rowdiest of patrons (the three guys whom Deb asked to ‘Shut the hell up!’ a good three or four times) lowered themselves to a dull roar as her voice soared over the acoustic guitar accompaniment.
It was Deborah’s first ever show at the Doghouse, an intimate (albeit respiratory impairing!) jazz venue with respectful patrons that suited her moody, cabaret performance with disarming surprise. The crowd were, by the end of the evening, vocal in their appreciation for the tunes, both old and new, and those who have been with her since the beginning thrilled in seeing her live again at last.
Shortly before 1am, after two solid hours of melodic rise, fall and good-natured banter, the crowd’s enthusiasm had not decreased and although Deborah’s weary smile conveyed how touched she was by the sincerity of the applause, she warned us that this, the third encore, would have to constitute the grand finale.
It was with that that she broke into a rousing rendition of It’s Only The Beginning, stopping to thank a couple at the front of the crowd for a bunch of flowers (“How sweet, perhaps today I can be a rose!”), followed by Today I Am A Daisy, a flourish of kisses and the declaration that: “You guys are the best Gold Coast audience I’ve had! I bet you’re thinking, ‘She says this to all her Gold Coast audiences’, but I mean it you guys. Thank you, I’m grateful”.
Somehow, though, I cannot help but feel it is we who should be thanking Deborah for her spellbinding show and consummate kindness.
Heidi Maier

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