Review: Dreamland at Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent (Sydney Festival)

January 20th 2016


Midnight shows in the Spiegeltent are always memorable. Even if partly because you don’t remember them too well. The line that gathered outside for Dreamland on Saturday night was long and loose, with a hint of that up-late debauchery in the air. What else would you expect when packing into a circus tent in the middle of the night, waiting for some of Sydney’s finest showmen to take the stage?

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Dreamland, which was part of the fun. We all knew the crew, but what would they pull out for this special one-off show together?

For the opener, Jack Ladder takes the lead. It’s a stirring, gratifyingly full rendition of “Beautiful Sound” – the best I’ve ever heard it. There’s no denying how good these guys sound together, and it’s a truly wonderful thing that they continue to collaborate.

Jack Ladder takes us through a few tracks from Playmates, his 2014 record with the Dreamlanders in tow. At one point Kirin accidentally calls him by his real first name on stage, but JL wryly forgives him, as “we’re all friends here”.

And we are. Surely this crowd is here for every member of Dreamland. We’re hanging out for Jack Ladder’s croon; and for the bizarre antics of Kirin J Callinan. We want to be given the heat from Donny Benet; we wait for that sweet percussion solo from Laurence Pike. I reckon some of us are even here for Neal Sutherland. Let’s be honest, he’s the one you don’t know – but you should. He co-wrote, recorded and produced Pivot’s glorious debut record Let Me Love You and has collaborated with The Presets, Bertie Blackman, and even bloody Rob “Millsy” Mills.

Now I’m going to pause to double-check the Dreamland event description before going on…


“For one night only, they plan to share the spotlight, revealing the four-headed beast of their creative output – each member’s individual and collaborative efforts – all the while exchanging songs, stories and solos.”


Okay. So after four or five tunes led by Jack Ladder’s warm baritone, I’m ready to move on to the rest of the band. Kirin gets a couple of solid numbers in – ‘Embracism’ and ‘The Toddler’ sound phenomenal with the full band in the Spiegeltent. But he feels a bit like a special guest.

There’s one beautifully manic instrumental – but I want more magic from Laurence’s kit.

There’s one deep cut from Donny Benet’s first record – “You’ll Find Love Again” – but I want more cheesy Italo romance. So do many, it seems. My side of the Spiegeltent contributing its fair share of chants for “DON-NY, DON-NY”. But he just grins that patented grin and plays along – exceptionally, don’t get me wrong – to most of Playmates and a few good throwbacks from Hurtsville.

I love these guys. Together, and all in their own right.

Perhaps I love them too much, because I’ve seen them play this Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders album at least half a dozen times.

It was the best I’ve ever heard them all play together. But it felt like we were promised more than that. I wanted more solos. More passing of the mic. I wanted more of Donny, Kirin and Laurence’s songs to get the full benefit of this magnificent show band, not just the polished Jack Ladder jams that always get the Dreamlanders’ magic.

Look, I just wanted more Donny.



Host of Thursday Lunch, 1-3pm on FBi 94.5FM.

Read more from Beth Dalgleish

You might also like

Driving With Donny: 'Jack Ladder Feeds Ducks' (episode 4)

In our fourth and final episode of Driving With Donny, it's all about feeding the birds and hoping for something in return. Learn the intricacies of an ever-lasting friendship as Donny takes his friend Jack Ladder for a long walk in the park...

Listen :: Jack Ladder co-hosts Dusty Fingers with Martin Doyle

While perched atop the album of the week throne, we asked Sydney's Jack Ladder to co-host Dusty Fingers with Martin Doyle. Treat yourself to two hours of eclectic gems that influenced the writing of 'Playmates'.

Interview :: Kirin J. Callinan

Max Quinn chats to Kirin J. Callinan about feeling like a God, a pervert and an enigma all at once. Also, that video clip.