Brave Kate Sought the Higher Ground

It may not be fashionable to say but I must admit to always having something for Kate Ceberano.

BraveThe summer of ’89, in particular, was a good one for us both. After some success with I’m Talking, her breakthrough album, Brave, would hit triple platinum and peak at #2 in the Australian album chart. Meanwhile, my junior cricket team would go undefeated on our way to an emphatic flag.

Well, everything’s relative.

My Saturday morning cricket routine began with watching Rage, the key being waking in time to catch Bedroom Eyes. It was an awakening alright, a 22 year old Miss Ceberano with that voice and that song… Sure, the Chantoozies went alright too, but Kate, she had real talent to match her exotic looks. Looking back now it’s all pretty tame compared to oh-my-gosh Nicki Minaj fare.

If Bedroom Eyes and the eponymous single Brave weren’t enough, next on the hit list was Young Boys are my Weakness – those lyrics and that video featuring curvy Kate spinning about in a tight black mini… Hello hormones. [Kate Ceberano, Chrissie Amphlett and Susanna Hoffs in tight black dresses in the 80s. Discuss. – Ed]

Some voices just have that indefineable quality, that point of difference which sets them apart. Kate Ceberano could sing an Andrew Bolt column and make it something to behold. Perhaps owing to the shambolic nature of its recording (a mish mash of tracks recorded here, then in London and then re-recorded again back in Melbourne), Brave was an eclectic mix of pop, jazz (i.e. a sublime cover of The Reels’ Quasimodo’s Dream), soul and funk (i.e. another cover; Higher Ground).

Kate’s sensual tones transcended all these styles and somehow Brave hit the sweet spot. Just in time for Kate, who after I’m Talking’s demise and critically acclaimed, if not commercially lucrative albums with her Septet and (the similarly undersold) Wendy Matthews, had reached a crossroads.

It rankled with me that Kylie Minogue’s Neighbours and Stock Aitken Waterman connections catapaulted her to international fame with a fraction of the musical talent. But interestingly, in a sliding doors moment just prior to Brave coming together, Kate walked away from the paint-by-numbers hit factory for which she actually recorded a version of Bedroom Eyes.

What rankled just as much was that my best friend, whose father held some kind of ranking within the Church of Scientology, had met Kate several times at various gatherings (her religion a seemingly anomolous aspect of her life, but who am I to judge?).

But I digress. Brave should have been the platform to global fame and fortune but sadly it remains her finest hour. Whilst Kate has enjoyed a tremendous, diverse career, she herself admits that potential Kylie-level international success eluded her due to a lack of strategic savvy and poor marketing. As much as fame was sought, Kate wouldn’t compromise her artistic integrity. And straddling multiple genres is tricky unless already established (e.g. Robbie Williams). The industry and marketplace is more comfortable with round pegs neatly inserted in round holes.

The first time I actually saw Kate playing live wasn’t until the 2002 AFL Grand Final. Kate and a Collingwood flag in the same afternoon was a fantasy nipped in the bud by, well, don’t get me started on umpiring decisions in the last quarter. Ah, what could have been.

Fast forward to December 2014 and she’s undertaking a sound check for the Hume Music Festival at some nondescript park somewhere in a nondescript housing estate in Craigieburn. My wife and I arrived early to grab a prime spot and we’re treated to a pre-show that was well worth our over eagerness. The bane of Kate’s career has struck again – this is a free concert yet no one seems to know about it. Just a few hundred in attendance, I feel mixed emotions. We’re treated to a typically fantastic, virtually private set which even includes Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album covered in full. Kate’s beautiful personality and humour shine throughout – she’s aged well and plays drums and piano too, just because she can. And not a skerrick of diva tetchiness over the poor turnout.

K & J

The author with Ms Ceberano, Dec. 2014. (pic supplied by Jeff Dowsing)

Post-show my wife wanted a photo with Kate to which she of course happily obliged. As Mrs D headed for the hills I intejected ‘hey, what about me?’ Nevermind the ‘my worlds are colliding’ moment (and I’m no fanboy tragic), I’d been waiting 25 years for this opportunity!

Kate is far better than free gigs in the ‘burbs, no matter what the going rate. Her quality Kensal Road album, released in 2013, also warranted far better returns.

You have to be brave to endure the curious whims of public taste and the music industry.

Brave track listing

  1. “Since You’ve Been Gone”
  2. “Love Dimension”
  3. “Quasimodo’s Dream”
  4. “Young Boys Are My Weakness”
  5. “Brave”
  6. “Bedroom Eyes”
  7. “That’s What I Call Love”
  8. “Higher Ground”
  9. “Obsession”
  10. “Changing with the Years”

About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Nicely done JD. I remember thinking she would be huge after ‘Brave’ was released. Still enjoy listening to You’ve Always Got the Blues with Wendy Matthews (another underrated performer). Kate’s rendition of Love Don’t Live Here Anymore is peerless. Cheers

  2. Thanks Phil – yep, Wendy Matthews’ voice comes a close second to Kate imo.

    I guess Kate is still huge in terms of achieving ongoing Australian success, and not many can keep it going for 3 years let alone 30. Even Kylie’s star is fading now, unable to sell out 1x RLA gig in her home town.

    In a similar vein to Kate, I thought Gabriella Cilmi would make it big after her debut album.

  3. I’m with you on Kate JD. Great singer and a great performer – which don’t always go together.
    Saw her at the Mundaring Weir Hotel last year, and it is our good fortune to be able to see a class act ‘down at the local’. Sure she’s not rich and famous, but there are worse things in life than being a reliably gigging performer.
    I preferred her ballads – ‘Brave’ is awesome.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful talent, love Kate’s work. One in a very large number of Australian artists who haven’t made it internationally yet are world-class.
    Great photo of you with Kate, Jeff.

  5. Good story, Jeff. A nondescript music festival ina nondescript housing estate turned out to be pretty special.

  6. Thanks Peter/Luke/Vin.

    The world’s loss is our gain. I’d contend KC’s compiled a far more satisfying body of work (for herself and her fans) than had she been on the pop rinse & repeat treadmill.

  7. Jeff, well written as usual. Kate was always a fave of mine too; totally agree she is exotic and has a seriously soulful voice. What a treat to see her up close and personal as you did. Kylie probably would never have made it had she stayed here to establish herself; so I give her credit for turning into a serious performer with a long career (albeit one without the vocal talent of Kate). Kate deserved much more.

  8. A very interesting read, Jeff.
    I remember seeing Kate perform a number of times during the late-80’s at “Jazz After Dark” which was held late on Friday nights at the Concert Hall.
    I have the cd “Kate Ceberano & Friends” which is an interesting collection of duets with, amongst others, Angie Hart.

  9. Thanks Smokie, I wish I was there. Kate Ceberano & Friends is a compilation of songs taken from her ABC interview series back around 1992. Would be nice for Rage to rescreen some of that rather than much of the retro & other obscure garbage they’re playing right now!

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