Tyrone Noonan hits the HOTA stage for a special celebration of Marvin Gaye classic ‘What’s Going On?’

2021 is the 50th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s musical masterpiece ‘What’s Going On’, and HOTA, Home of the Arts is celebrating this epic milestone with a brand new production by one of Australia’s most respected musicians, Tyrone Noonan.

Having performed the songs of Marvin Gaye for years with his band Palimpsest, Tyrone – who has tasted significant national success as co-lead of Brisbane band George along with sister Katie – has re-arranged ‘What’s Going On’ in its entirety for a bespoke production that will be getting its second outing only on the Gold Coast, following a successful showing at Brisbane Festival.

When we caught up with Tyrone, we asked him about his relationship with Marvin Gaye’s music.

“I’ve always be a fan, and this particular album is such an incredible body of work to be placed into one recording,” he tells us.

I love and respect so many musicians and songwriters, but I don’t think that any one artist has ever created such a complete body of work.

History agrees, with ‘What’s Going On’ holding the coveted number 1 spot on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Album’s of all times, and its title track holding steady at number 6 on the Greatest Songs list.

‘What’s Going On’ is a concept album, told from the point of view of a Vietnam vet returning to his home country to witness hatred, suffering, and injustice at every turn.

Covering themes of racism, drug abuse, poverty and the environment in his lyrics, Gaye not only addressed the issues of 1971 American but also appeared to have a crystal ball when it came to worldwide issues, 50 years on and 30 years after his death.

“It’s actually more relevant than when it was written, which a little disheartening in a way,” says Tyrone.

“We’re at crunch time now. This upcoming event in Glasgow [United Nations Climate Change Conference] is a real opportunity for us to face up to this reality – that’s already that’s looking like it might a kind of whitewash situation – that we’ve been living unsustainably on this planet for too long.

Marvin seemed to be aware of this back in 1971 before anyone was talking about ecology.

‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)’ was Gaye’s second single release from the iconic album, a title that reputedly caused a stir with his record label.

“Motown founder Berry Gordy apparently said ‘What the fuck does ecology even mean?’ laughs Tyrone. “Although he wouldn’t have been alone. Quite a few people wouldn’t have known what that meant back in 1971.”

The upcoming production will see ‘What’s Going On’ performed in full with a short interlude between each side, along with some choice song selections from throughout Marvin’s hugely successful career.

This is no Broadway show; it’s all about recreating the legendary live experience of Marvin Gaye and the time is right to witness the spectacle of a live performance of this album.

Tyrone is joined by his Palimpsest bandmates for this show, featuring some of Queensland’s finest musicians: Brendan St Ledger on keyboards, James Mcintyre on guitars, Joshua Hatcher on saxophones, flutes and glockenspiel, Chris Pearson on bass, Aaron Jansz on drums and Cindia Reine on percussion.

I ask Tyrone how he plans to channel Marvin on stage.

“It’s interesting – I know this is going to sound weird – but I do believe it is like channelling,” he says

“At the Brisbane Fest show I really really got that feeling, and I almost felt like I was out of my own body observing what was happening, just giving over to that energy.”

It seems the crowd felt it too, if the “absolutely amazing” feedback was anything to go by.

“I think everyone in that whole room was connected that night,” Tyrone tells us “You know Gaye does deal with some heavy subjects on the record but it’s not all doom and gloom, it is quite hopeful and we finish the show with a bunch of dancing tunes from throughout his career which is lots of fun.”

You can get connected with Tyrone and Palimpsest when they cross the stage at the Lakeside Room at HOTA on Saturday 13 November, performing the iconic ‘What’s Going On’ in full as well as selected Marvin Gaye tunes. Tix at hota.com.au. And in the words of Tyrone, “come prepared for a transformative experience”.

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