Review: Singular Voices: Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

March 08, 2023

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn performing at the City Recital Hall on March 6. It was their first of five shows as part of their Australia tour.

Review by Andrew Isaacson

Photo: Jared Leibowitz Photography

“I don’t know how you get anything done here.”

That was one of the many jokes Abigail Washburn made to the crowd during her two-and-a-half hour performance with Bela Fleck on March 6. Their performance at the City Recital Hall was the first of five shows they will be playing in Australia before heading to New Zealand for two concerts.

Washburn said they originally had plans to come to Australia in 2020, but the pandemic halted them. She said it felt great to finally come to the Down Under and dedicated their fifth song of the night to moving on from COVID-19, titled: “Corona.”

Photo: Jared Leibowitz Photography

For me personally, it was my first time attending a banjo concert and I was truly blown away. Each song they played felt super peaceful and had an amazing melody with their duet on the banjo and Washburn’s beautiful voice. They are truly a dynamic duo and it’s incredible how well they perform together.

What I really enjoyed about the concert was how funny and personal they got with the crowd. The recital hall was filled with countless laughs during the breaks in between songs, including when Fleck and Washburn talked about how great recycling is in Australia.

As an American, I felt very at home at the recital hall last night since they reside in Nashville and brought over so many American tunes including “Banjo House Lockdown.” Being over 10,000 miles away from home and seeing an American jazz performance in a concert venue in Sydney was super unique. 

Something else that made the performance even more special was how amazing the music sounded and how perfectly the lighting matched with the songs. Everything felt so in sync with the colors switching on stage in between their songs.

Another aspect of the performance that was cool was how both Fleck and Washburn each had their own solos and time to shine on stage. Fleck got the biggest ovation of the night for his individual performance on the banjo and he showed the Australian crowd why he is a 15-time Grammy winner

It was a spectacular night at the City Recital Hall, which concluded with Fleck and Washburn coming back out for an encore, which included their hit “Railroad.”

“The king and queen of the banjo” put on a breathtaking show and totally deserved the standing ovation they received at the end.

Thank you to the City Recital Hall for hosting a staggering show and to Fleck and Washburn for making me feel at home in Sydney with their incredible banjo recital. I hope to return for another concert in the near future.

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn received a standing ovation for their performance at the City Recital Hall on March 6.

Photo: Jared Leibowitz Photography

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