They may be regular performers at the Brisbane Jazz Club, but no one could accuse Karen Anderson And The Fortunate Sinners of being predictable.
A recent show (10 March) at the Club featured their unique takes on a range of songs, from those of Paul Kelly and Prince to Benny Goodman and Sting. The wide-ranging set list was partly in honour of a new, live album the band launched that evening.
The song choices were so eclectic, Anderson took to asking the audience to guess what was coming up next. By the end of the night, the rest of the band got to join in the quiz, too: even they couldn't tell which tune Anderson planned to sing for a finale. For those playing at home, it turned out to be 'Love Is A Losing Game' by Amy Winehouse.
Both Anderson and the audience were fortunate to have players experienced enough to handle anything she threw their way. Giving so many well known songs the confident strut of funk and blues meant the entire show felt at once familiar and new.
Even karaoke stalwarts like 'Roxanne' sounded fresh, becoming a duet between Anderson and part-time backing singer, Brian Cavanagh. An impromptu scat-off between the two was enough to convince me that Cavanagh deserves a promotion to full-time backing duties.
Perhaps sensing that the audience felt the same way, Anderson graciously gave Cavanagh the stage for one song, which allowed him to show off an impressive vocal range and even do some of his own back-up singing. The singer's open invitation for a solo yielded one of the best of the night: a tight, bluesy organ riff by Dale Rabic.
After slowing things down at the start of the second set, the band began really having fun, with a deliberately cheesy plug for the new album that was worthy of a mid-morning infomercial. Once the laughter died down, the tempo ramped up and the dancers took to the floor. All the energy culminated in a funky, freewheeling rendition of 'God Bless The Child'.
The common thread running through every song was a sense of controlled chaos, the kind of chaos likely to overwhelm a lesser band. But for a group of musicians at the top of their game, the result was a treat for the audience.