Kai Smythe, a Melbourne-based musician, comedian and performer is Hairy Soul Man, a peacock of a performer full of swagger and confidence. Backed by a 7-piece band made up of local talent plus his core crew from Melbourne, Hairy Soul Man is a show that perfectly combines high-calibre musicianship with well-crafted comedy.
I went on opening night, and it’s a damn shame the audience wasn’t bigger because shows like this would flourish with a large crowd, especially in Bodega. The amount of energy being produced by the performers should be matched by the audience, which is nearly impossible with a crowd of 20 people. I say ‘nearly’ because by the end of this wonderful show, Kai had us out of our seats dancing and cheering so loudly it felt like a packed out venue. Ooooh he’s that good. Kai did a great job to connect with the intimate audience, leaving the stage to talk us between songs and dancing with us on the dancefloor.
Allow me to open with the following - holy smokes. Hands down this is the best show I have reviewed this comedy festival, and quite possibly also the best show at this year’s comedy festival. Everything about 'Hairy Soul Man' is so feel good that you are guaranteed to leave the show with a massive grin adorning your face.
'Hairy Soul Man' is a music comedy based project created by Queenslander Kai Smythe and it epitomises everything that is right about the genre. Smythe is backed by an amazing seven piece soul band for the show and every single member of the band is exceptional. Although the name of the project might be odd, the results are most certainly glorious. The music played is absolutely sensational and Smythe’s vocal talents are irrefutably impressive. The hilarity of the lyrics are not lost to the brilliant music played by the band because Smythe just owns the vocals.
Smythe’s enthusiasm is simply infectious, captivating the audience with an electrifying stage presence. His sexy, sensual, hilarious and charismatic persona radiates through to the crowd as he performs fantastic songs such 'Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That', and the anthem of self-love, 'Loving Myself'. Smythe sprinkles a few serious messages throughout the show, most notably regarding body image, and he delivers the ideas to the audience in such a fun and subjunctive manner that we can’t help but listen. In addition to the scintillating songs his ability to speak to the audience was amazing, with the topics he spoke about being either relatable or endearing, generally both.
Not only is this show fun and hilarious, but we feel so much better about ourselves. Everything about this show feels so right, it is an absolute must see.
'Hairy Soul Man', we salute you.
For the original review head to:
Kai Smythe, a towering beanpole in a floor-length, hooded fur coat, strides onto the stage and hurls his mirrored sunglasses to the floor. Behind him, an eight-piece soul revue locks into a groove and takes flight.
Smythe tells us he’s excited for us, because his show is full of great music, funny jokes, “and you get to look at this for an hour”, gesturing to his lanky frame.
He warns us that his show is “quite sexy” and that he can make just about anything sound lascivious. And to prove it, he sings passages from a tax declaration form and Bob Katter’s memoirs.
He says he gets his ideas for song from just about anything — from crocheted blankets to malfunctioning electric stoves. But he mostly deals in the time-honoured tradition of love and other bruises, with odes to self-love and looking at heartbreak from a labourer’s perspective.
Smythe’s vocals are deep and soulful, and the band — which features a two-piece horn section and female backing vocalists — is a real cracker.
With so many shows in the festival line-up, it’s easy for some of the smaller ones to slip under the radar. Make sure that this isn’t one of them.
You know how some people's talking voices are toned in such a way, it makes you think immediately of a smoking jacket clad, cigar smoking, Alan Rickman lookalike sitting on a leather Chesterfield swirling Jägermeister? And how they could pretty much read the telephone book and all you're doing is closing your eyes and enjoying the experience? Well this Australian act Hairy Soul Man is a little like that.
Add in A-grade musicianship, suited-up musicians, some pretty hi-lair-rious well-crafted compositions and a frontman with a hella swag and you have what I can only describe as a frenetic yet well-crafted and solid-as soul explosion of comedic entertainment.
Vying for audience in a jam-packed Comedy Festival programme, it's such a waste that fewer than 20 people turn up to see Hairy Soul Man on their opening night. To their credit they give it their all. Professional as.
As for Kai Smythe. Ar..ar...ow (that's meant to howling). He is one helluva showman: hella sexy with killa sideburns. He oozes soul and for a whiteman, oodles of swag. He channels James Brown and Elvis Presley in his white jump suit martial arts heyday. He's fantastic.
There's the songs and then there's the banter between songs. It's all practiced true and hilarious and surprisingly not irritating considering how he talks his persona up. It's proof (I guess) that, with the right level of showmanship, professionalism and musicianship you can pretty much sing anything and the audience will follow and believe you.
Hairy Soul Man has similarities to one of our more well-known musical acts and if you go you'll know who I mean. But they have their own mana too. Am I recommending this? Hell yeah. They're in Wellington for the next two nights. Take a crew, trek it to Bodega, dance off. Enjoy.
Read more here:
Nik Smythe - Theatreview.org.nz'Blues-based soul music is arguably one of the most humanist forms of music, evidenced by Smythe's song topics that stretch the gamut of classic rock-topics: love, self-love, self-loathing, heartbreak, loneliness, depression et al...'open/close
The smartly dressed band enters first, launching directly into the opening bars of that classic intro refrain Gimme Some Lovin' – the same one the Blues Brothers use – then straight into the especially appropriate Motown classic Soul Man (after which it's all original). The titular hirsute spirited fellow shuffles in like a Sasquatch James Brown, shrouded in a tall furry hooded cloak. Then he flings it off to reveal the speckled brown suit, green shirt, tie and sneakers, brown-tinted aviators and close-cropped chops so wide, if they were any wider they'd be a beard.
There are fifty odd patrons at the Auckland opening in the Concert /Comedy Chamber: a third or so full which feels a tad on the empty side. This does not stop Melbournian comedian Kai Smythe (no relation), aka the Hairy Soul Man, baring his heart, lungs and tailored brown suit for our blues-rock funking pleasure, backed by his seven exceptional musicians.
It takes a bit of effort at first to generate the appropriate party energy in the spacious room with their potent combination of solid grooves, slick moves, salacious come-hither looks and a powerfully eloquent vocal range. However, we're totally on board by the time he's finished demonstrating how anything you say, no matter how banal, can sound sexy when you have a 7 piece soul band behind you, even an IRD tax declaration.
By the time he's getting everyone up for a soul-cleansing dance it's a generous invitation, not an imposition – although he warns us against ever trying it in a pub in his unspecified regional Australian home town.
Blues-based soul music is arguably one of the most humanist forms of music, evidenced by Smythe's song topics that stretch the gamut of classic rock-topics: love, self-love, self-loathing, heartbreak, loneliness, depression et al.
The accomplishment of the entire band cannot be understated, as led by musical director and scruffy-haired bass player James O'Brien, not to mention the sultry lass in the peek-a-bang hairdo whose back-up vocals add necessary sweetness to Mr Man's primal soul. Add some lightning-fingered lead and rhythm guitar, steamy keys, solidly syncopated drums and thriving horns (trumpet and trombone), and you can't go wrong. Not with these cats, anyway.
Read more here:
Rachael Pizey - Gather And Hunt'he Hairy Soul Man dropped all his inhibitions for the purposes of our entertainment and it worked. His vocals were not only deep and soulful but refreshingly different...'open/close
I often think attending a comedy show is similar to blind dating, sometimes it's best not to know much about what you’re in for. If the evening goes well you leave feeling pleasantly surprised, if it’s bad you have a new story for watercooler chat the next day. So, if a date started with a warning that things were going to get ‘quite sexy’ as Kai Smythe's in his Comedy Festival fixture ‘The Hairy Soul Man’ did, I would probably assume it was heading towards the bad, thankfully I was pleasantly surprised.
The Hairy Soul Man won us over through his bold statements of lascivious abilities, imposing physicality, ably assisted by superb back up from his 7 piece soul band. Halfway through this musical exploration of his sexual universe I scanned the room to check I wasn’t the only person smirking with bemusement only to see others bopping along in their seats and actually laughing out loud.
The Hairy Soul Man dropped all his inhibitions for the purposes of our entertainment and it worked. His vocals were not only deep and soulful but refreshingly different. In the midst of ‘Self Love’ I found myself making comparisons to the Flight of the Conchords and wondering if the lyrics ‘why should I love someone else when I am so good at loving myself’ would catch on as successfully as ‘business socks’ did. I hope for this accomplished performer that it does.
Hairy Soul Man (Kai Smythe) has won the Melbourne Cabaret Festival Award at Melbourne Fringe, been nominated for Best Cabaret at the Adelaide Fringe, enjoyed a sell-out season at the 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and had critically acclaimed performances at the Adelaide Fringe & Edinburgh Fringe. Awards aside, anyone that can get a crowd tapping their feet along to ‘it’s cold on my genitals’ set to reggae deserves supporting, so get along to see him. Who knows I might even head along for a second date…