Suave, sexy and spectacular – The Justin Timberlake 20/20 World Tour

JT

To lump Justin Timberlake’s music into the “pop” genre is a serious oversight of his talent. The degree of quality, finesse and utter class of his music is unparalleled in the industry at the moment, especially with the likes of Miley Cyrus, 5SOS and Pitbull flooding the radio.

It’s been seven years since JT toured in Australia and judging from the squeals of joy and the roaring applauses that stunned even the singer himself, we’ve been eagerly awaiting his return.

From the moment the dashing singer stepped onto the stage, everyone was in a state of constant awe and bewilderment throughout the 150-minute show. Everything from the songs, the band, the dancing and stage that moved over our heads in the mosh pit, literally left fans with their mouths agape in admiration.

The setlist included a perfect mix of hits from The 20/20 Experience and his older music which induced a welcome wave of nostalgia. Interestingly, it was the hits from his album Justified that received the loudest reaction, proving his fan-base remained loyal in his long absence.

Image: Juliana Mare

Image: Juliana Mare

With an aura of 1920’s class and glamour, the Tennessee Kids looked incredibly dapper on stage and provided an entertaining element of theatricality. Having never seen anyone play a trombone, trumpet or tuba live, the 15 Tennessee Kids had that cool jazz vibe that I envision the musicians of the clubs in New Orleans to have.

JT’s dancing is a sublime hybrid of modern Hip Hop popping and locking, Michael Jackson-esque moves and a dash of the swinging classics of the early 20th century. It’s a completely unique style that was equally as impressive as the music.

Even though the dance moves were quick and intricate and his music requires a mix of falsetto, some fast verses and a smooth tenor, JT makes it look easy, never missing a beat. As if all that wasn’t impressive enough, he also played a stunning white grand piano during Until The End of Time.

I don’t think the word excellent is good enough to describe JT’s 20/20 World Tour. Usually after surviving a mosh pit, I find my throat is sore and my voice is scratchy the following day – the result of my screaming in admiration. The morning after the Justin Timberlake concert, not only did my voice creak and rasp, my cheek muscles felt tired and worn which I can only assume is a result of having a constant, gigantic smile plastered on my face for over two hours. Make of that what you will.

Positively Emerald!

From the lobby bar cocktails to the costumes, the Regent Theatre has been painted green in honour of Wicked: The Musical which I had the pleasure of seeing last weekend!

The gravity defying musical Wicked has rolled back into Melbourne for another season at the Regent Theatre and there’s just something about that green skinned, broomstick-riding Wicked Witch of the West that I really seem to connect with.

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While I am neither green nor a broomstick rider, it’s Elphaba’s fierce determination to firstly, succeed and secondly, fight for a worthy cause that make her character incredibly admirable. While her “the-ends-justify-the-means” persona and her decree that no good deed goes unpunished, categorise her into the villain trope, I maintain that Elphaba is a worthy role model, more so that Wicked’s other protagonist Glinda the “Good Witch” whose thoughts and actions are all driven by vanity and popularity.

Don’t get me wrong – Glinda has her moments, she is after all, the good witch. She’s fiercely loyal and has an unwavering determination like Elphaba to succeed although her vision of success seems so much shallower and egotistical. Nonetheless, I have unashamedly had the chorus of Popular stuck in my head all week.

I love musicals there’s no denying, but Wicked is undoubtedly a favourite of mine. Yes, the storyline, songs and characters are phenomenal but it’s the smaller things, perhaps the things that go unnoticed by the masses that really impress me.

The extraordinary costumes are some of the best from any musical I’ve watched. The citizens of Oz in their quirky frocks, all embellished in that beautiful emerald green colour, nearly out-shadowed the main cast. Of course, this is complimented by a very cleverly designed set. Despite having seen Wicked before, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when thousands of tiny green lights lit up the stage upon our first glimpse of the Emerald City!

Gina Beck and Louise Dearman as Elphaba and Glina, respectively.

Gina Beck and Louise Dearman as Elphaba and Glina, respectively.

And then there’s those clever, witty connections to The Wizard of Oz. Knowing that story like the back of my hand, it’s easy to be impressed with the script of Wicked that mentions that annoying dog “Dodo,” and explains the origins of our beloved Scarecrow and Tin-Man.

Wicked is a world-class production that impresses on all fronts. Diehard musical theatre fans will be blown away by the soundtrack, fashion lovers will swoon over the costumes, children will love the theatricality and humour and adults will surely appreciate the ingenuity of the parallels to the original Oz story. There is quite literally something to impress everyone.

If you’ve only ever thought of the Wicked Witch of the West as the nasty woman who tormented Judy Garland, Wicked will bring a whole new side of Elphaba to light and truly help you see that there are two sides to every story, and both deserve to be told.

Oz Comic-Con 2014: Pop culture has never looked so cool!

AFTER enormous success in previous years, Oz Comic-Con is gearing up for a stellar event in 2014. Juliana Mare has this year’s superstar guest line-up.

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Fans of series’ like Stargate, Smallville and the X-Men movie franchise will be star-struck come July when Oz Comic-Con rolls into Melbourne!

If you’re lucky enough to live in or attend the events in Adelaide or Sydney however, you’ll get the chance to meet and question the enormously talented British actor, Benedict Cumberbatch – famous for his roles in Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness and most recently, 12 Years A Slave.

For fans new to the whole convention experience, Oz Comic-Con is an annual expo celebrating all the facets of pop culture in all its glory. From film and television to graphic novels, comic books, animation artists and writers, Oz Comic-Con covers all bases of the geek experience.

Oz Comic-Con 2012 event. Image: Leif Wilsan, all rights reserved.

Everything on offer at 2012’s Oz Comic-Con event. Image: Leif Wilsan, all rights reserved.

Events like this offer a unique experience for fans to shake hands with their idols, snap a professional photo with them and the opportunity to pick their brains during stimulating and often, humorous Q&A sessions.

It’s a safe bet that if you’re a fan of any popular fandom, Oz Comic-Con will have something to impress you with; whether it’s a guest appearance or a piece of epic, exclusive merchandise.

A general admission day or weekend ticket allows fans entry into the venue and access to guest panels and stalls. Tokens for autographs and photos with special guests can be additionally purchased on the day though it’s subject to availability.

A fan meets Shannen Doherty, star of hit shows Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed. Image: Oz Comic-Con's official Facebook page.

A fan meets Shannen Doherty, star of hit shows Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed at Perth’s Oz Comic Con 2014 event. Image: Oz Comic-Con’s official Facebook page.

For the more die-hard fans, select guests have exclusive tickets and dinner package tickets for a seriously intimate experience so make sure to check out the full list of ticket options available.

Meeting such talented actors and artists in person is an adrenalin-pumping experience and taking a professional photograph home with you is a priceless souvenir.

In addition, the many stalls exhibited throughout the space will be packed full of any and every piece of merchandise. Things such as time-turner key rings from the Harry Potter franchise, t-shirts with every house sigil from George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, shelves upon shelves of comic books and even cans of orange, fizzy Duff beer from The Simpsons will no doubt be on display for all to browse through.

Shawn Ashmore (X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Following) will appear in Melbourne's Oz Comic Con event in July alongside his twin brother, Aaron Ashmore (Smallville, Veronica Mars). Image: Thibault via Flickr

Shawn Ashmore (X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Following) will appear in Melbourne’s Oz Comic Con event in July alongside his twin brother, Aaron Ashmore (Smallville, Veronica Mars). Image: Thibault via Flickr

Oz Comic-Con and DCA Enterprises organiser, Carissa Avenhouse says “Aussie fans are in for some real treats,” regarding guest appearances and the Melbourne leg of the 2014 expo is no exception.

The stages of the Royal Exhibition Building will feature Gary Jones, twin brothers Shawn and Aaron Ashmore, Richard Dean Anderson, Wilson Bethel, Jim Cummings (the voice of Winnie the Pooh) and an impressive list of comic and publishing guests.

Oz Comic-Con is a must-do experience for all pop culture fans. With exquisite cosplay (dressing up as fictional characters) competitions, gaming stations (Nintendo will be attending all five cities in 2014), collectibles, stalls and exclusive ‘meet and greet’ opportunities, fans simply couldn’t ask for more.

Oz Comic-Con will roll into Melbourne on July 5 – 6 at the Royal Exhibition Building. For more information on all things Oz Comic-Con, including event times, venues, exhibitors and special guests, head over Oz Comic-Con’s official website to learn more

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I wrote this article for Meld Magazine. Keep an eye out for my review of Oz Comic-Con Adelaide (coming soon).

NGV announces Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition for summer 2014/15

FROM the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is the Australian exclusive exhibition of the bold, eccentric fashion from one of the industry’s biggest icons. Juliana Mare reports.

Andrej Pejić 2013. Confession of a Child of the Century collection. Jean Paul Gaultier Haute couture, autumn- winter 2012-13 © Alix Malka

Andrej Pejić 2013. Confession of a Child of the Century collection.
Jean Paul Gaultier Haute couture, autumn- winter 2012-13 © Alix Malka

Dita Von Teese, Gemma Ward, Sarah Jessica Parker and Beyoncé have all donned a Gaultier frock but it’s the radical cone bra worn by Madonna during her 1990 Blond Ambition tour, that is perhaps his most recognised piece of fashion art.

140 fabulous Gaultier designs ranging from his earliest dress in 1971 to his current work will be on display in an exhibition that Minister for the Arts, Heidi Victoria says is one of the most exciting that we’ll se anywhere in Australia in the next few years.

Millions have already viewed the exhibition in Montreal, New York and London however for the Melbourne leg of the world tour, an exclusive section showcasing Gaultier’s Australian muses, has been developed.

Left: Gaultier gown worn by Cate Blanchett. Right: Gaultier gowns worn by Kylie Minogue (left) and Nicole Kidman (right). Photos: Rachel Gan.

Left: Gaultier gown worn by Cate Blanchett. Right: Gaultier gowns worn by Kylie Minogue (left) and Nicole Kidman (right). Photos: Rachel Gan.

“Preparing this exhibition I have realised how strong my ties to Australia are – Nicole Kidman was my first couture client; I have dressed Cate Blanchett on numerous occasions; Kylie [Minogue] is a dear friend,” Mr Gaultier said.

There will be seven sections dividing the exhibition, each exploring a different passion and obsession Gaultier had over the years. These include The Boudoir highlighting Gaultier’s pieces of lingerie and exquisite corsetry, Punk Cancan showcasing his brilliantly contrasting styles including London punk and Urban Jungle; designs with a fusion of multiethnic influences.

Over two years, exhibition curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot worked with Gaultier to sift through his archives and choose just 140 out of over 10,000 pieces, a task Loriot says was both a dream and a nightmare.

Everything from design sketches, accessories, film excerpts and runway footage will also feature throughout the exhibition to showcase Gaultier’s incredible repertoire across fashion, film and music.

Dita Von Teese: Flaunt 2003 Dada collection. Jean Paul Gaultier Ready-to-wear, spring- summer 1983 © Perou

Dita Von Teese: Flaunt 2003
Dada collection. Jean Paul Gaultier Ready-to-wear, spring- summer 1983
© Perou

32 of the exhibition mannequins will come to life with animated faces of the celebrities that wore the eccentric designs. They will wink, smile and sing to the audience; an innovative feature the likes of which have never been seen in a gallery before.

NGV Director Tony Ellwood says he’s thrilled that the NGV will be hosting such a “ground-breaking international exhibition.”

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: from the Sidewalk to the Catwalk will open at the NGV on October 17.

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I attended this event for Meld Magazine. View the article on their site here.

The way to a woman’s heart is through ganache

As a child, I loved family day-trips to Sassafras because despite the long drive, it was the location of my favourite lolly shop.

It was a quaint, tiny store that had enormous rainbow lollipops, liquorice, toffee, chocolate bars and my absolute favourite – jars of boiled lollies that I would beg my mother to buy for me to eat on the car ride home. 

The ten year old me enjoyed the sickly, overpowering scent of sugar that assaulted my nose in this lolly shop. It takes a lot more than sugar to impress the 22 year old me and Adriano Zumbo’s new cafe in South Yarra, Melbourne delivered on all fronts.

Zumbo's window of decadent cakes. Photo: Juliana Mare

Zumbo’s window of decadent cakes. Photo: Juliana Mare

First, there’s the pastry window with danishes, lamingtons, the occasional savoury quiche and the iconic “zonut” which on my visit, was a mouthwatering choc-banana flavour. When you combine the banana filling which had a jam-like consistency, the fluffy donut mixture, the chocolate ring of icing and the dusting of sugar, the zonut is only for serious sugar lovers and shouldn’t be allowed within five feet of a diabetic. It was undoubtedly delicious with a rich, sweet banana taste but curbed my sugar cravings for at least a week.

The next window is filled with row upon row of picture perfect macarons – sorry, that is “zumbarons” in flavours I’ve never stumbled across before. After much deliberation, I narrowed my purchase down to a box of six ($15); apple pie, toasted marshmallow, salted buttered popcorn, pandan & sticky rice, passionfruit & basil and the flavour I was bursting to try, Vegemite on toast.

Having attempted to bake macarons before, it’s quite remarkable how flavoursome the creamy ganache of each macaron has. Aside from the buttered popcorn which was disappointingly lacklustre, every other macaron had a rich, palpable flavour.

The iconic "zonut" and "zumbarons." Photo: Juliana Mare

The iconic “zonut” and “zumbarons.” Photos: Juliana Mare

As an Aussie who takes her Vegemite seriously, I had high, high expectations for Zumbo’s vegemite on toast macaron. Luckily, it blew my mind, and my tastebuds. I’m accustomed to slathering more butter than Vegemite on my toast so the mild flavour of the ganache was pleasant enough without feeling like I was swallowing a spoonful of the spread on its own.

To say I was impressed by the cake window is an understatement. The National Gallery of Victoria should commission Zumbo to create an exhibition because his cakes look more like works of art, than desserts.

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From left to right:

The Annoying Orange: Layers of flourless chocolate cake, orange caramel, olive sable, chocolate & clove mousse, orange & white chocolate jam.

A rich, dense flourless chocolate fondant cake with Italian meringue, strawberry and choc-raspberry macaron.

Secret Carrot’s Business: Layered carrot cake, baked cheese cake, cream cheese mousse, semi dried carrots and caramelised pecans.

Cracking into the Annoying Orange cake reminded me of those photos that show the different internal layers of a planet. It was a faultless dessert with a decadent chocolate-orange flavour and four delicious layers of cake, caramel, jam and mousse. On its own, the mousse layer was too overpowering for my taste but combining it with the other layers was very enjoyable to eat.

It’s a rare occasion when I don’t finish a dessert but I struggled to finish even half of the chocolate fondant cake. It was overly rich, sickly sweet and the texture was so incredibly thick and wet that the fork used to cut a piece came away coated in cake. The italian meringue on top was perfectly gooey inside but did little to balance the over-abundance of sugar in the cake.

Ordinary carrot cake is just never going to do it for me again after eating Zumbo’s version. Cream cheese mousse, carrot cake and cheesecake is a winning combination in regards to flavour and texture. The base was crumbly and offset the creamy mousse wonderfully but the real winner of this dessert was the soft, airy carrot cake crumbled on top.

Zumbo’s Pâtissier has set the benchmark for desserts incredibly high as the cakes, macarons and pastries are as beautiful to look at as they are to taste. There are completely unique treats that firstly, Zumbo should be commended for and secondly, you simply won’t find anywhere else.

It’s well worth a visit, even if it’s likely to end in the mother of all sugar comas.

Passenger: Australian Winter Tour Review

It’s always a pleasure to see Passenger, AKA Mike Rosenberg. The English-born artist, who attracts just as much attention busking out on the streets as he does at sold-out venues, is touring across Australia before returning to support fellow Brit Ed Sheeran during the North American leg of his world tour.

When Rosenberg steps out onto the stage with just one acoustic guitar, he seems truly gobsmacked at the amount of applause he receives. “I wasn’t sure how it would go just because I haven’t got a new album out,” he says. “I’ve been blown away by the crowd and how many people have come down. Australia is my second home, it’s wonderful.”

With little urging, we belt out the lyrics to ‘Holes’ and the crowd favourite ‘I Hate’ – and those of us who can whistle try to do so as loud as possible during ‘Caravan’. Having asked his Facebook fans to pick the setlist, Rosenberg’s put together a good mix of old and new. There are songs from the 2009 album Wide Eyes Blind Love, tracks off the most recent album, All the Little Lights, a couple of new songs and covers of the Simon & Garfunkel classic ‘The Sound of Silence’ and Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’.

The covers are particularly intriguing as they’ve been tweaked with the signature Passenger style – slightly folky acoustic arrangements that bring out the songs’ subtleties.

Not only is Rosenberg a sharp lyricist when penning his own tracks, but he has great guitar chops to boot, and when he steps away from the microphone to strum and stomp, we can’t help but be a little mesmerised. When the guitar stops and it’s just his voice ringing out over a completely silent crowd, the intimate atmosphere is heightened.

On stage, Rosenberg is as charming as ever. In between songs, he tells stories cunningly designed to make you laugh or cry – and either way you can’t help but feel as if you’re old friends. There’s dead silence when he tells us about an elderly man he met in Denmark who was travelling the around world alone, on a trip he was meant to take with his wife before she passed away. This story is half of the inspiration behind the new track ‘Travelling Alone’.

It doesn’t matter whether you see him busking on a street corner or performing on a stage, Passenger’s imaginative, story-telling lyrics and beautiful melodies never fail to impress.

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This review is published on the Time Out site too!

Top 5 Macaron shops in Melbourne!

Get on top of the latest food trend! Who cares if you pronounce it MAC-A-RON or MAC-A-ROON, they taste amazing so chow down! Here we go, in no particular order…

Café Siciliadolce Pasticceria

Tucked away in the industrial sector of Moorabbin, this Sicilian café makes all the best Italian desserts (including Melbourne’s finest cannoli) and their macarons compete just as well. There are all your basic flavours – the classic French vanilla, strawberry and lemon (which definitely packs a zippy punch) but if you call in advance, you can order the delicious and one-of-a-kind zuppa inglese macaron. For all you non-Italians, this is a classic custard-based dessert similar to a trifle. The nifty variety dozen is a definite favourite and makes the trip to Moorabbin definitely worth the while.

Brunetti

It’s no secret that Brunetti cakes are to die for, but their macarons have stolen the spotlight. There’s the basic vanilla, chocolate and lemon flavours as well as the more extravagant mango or tiramisu. Try the vibrant green almond biscuit and pistacchio cream macaron which is the perfect amount of sticky, chewy goodness. If you’re feeling extra fancy, ask for takeaway and the macaroon will come on its own mini gold plate. For those who like to supersize, Brunetti also make the mother of all macarons, measuring 7cm across.

La Belle Miette

This cute cupboard of a shop is a hidden gem along Hardware Lane which exudes French class and elegance. As a macaron speciality shop, they have some of the quirkiest and eccentric flavours you’ll ever come across; cherry blossom and sake, Pimms and pomegranate or Moet et Chandon and blackcurrant. These little bombshells of flavour will definitely delight your tastebuds and the quaint, Parisian atmosphere of the shop is just an added bonus.

LuxBite

Run by Malaysian couple Bernard Chu and Yen Yee, LuxBite is a modern macaron heaven. With extremely creative and unique flavours, the brightly coloured, hand-crafted macarons not only look picture-perfect, but they taste pretty spectacular too. The Malaysian influence is most evident in the kaya toast and pandan flavours. If those don’t tickle your fancy, there’s also Oreo, Ribena lemonade or vanilla crème brûlée flavours to sink your teeth into.

Cacao

The hand-crafted French macarons are just one of the drool-inducing specialties offered at Cacao. Not one for simplicity either, there are obscure, tasty flavour combinations including violet and cassis, coffee and dark chocolate or peanut butter and chocolate. Caramel lovers, grab the salted caramel macaron which uses hand harvested sea salt all the way from Brittany, France to make the rich, sweet caramel taste ten times better. Excellently, Cacao has two CDB locations – double trouble.

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I wrote this piece for Time Out check it out on their website!