Disappointed is not a word I would ever use in synonymity with Jason Chasland. Singing is in his blood, and I challenge any member or ally of the LGBTQIA+ community to not be entertained by his vocal performativity. Following last year’s Auckland Pride show Impostar: Who Does He Think He Is?, which toured to Hollywood, Chasland ups the ante with Leather Lungs: Son of a Preacher’; though to be fair, it’s not a gamble when you have this much talent.
The pseudonym could not be more appropriate. The power of Chasland’s voice is matched only by its range and tone. His vocal manipulations are extraordinary as he switches between genres and genders, all the while remaining in the original keys. Add to this Chasland’s wit, cheeky humour, off-script moments, and impressive dance moves, and Leather Lungs is inarguable fun.
The disclaimer at the beginning of the show that there won’t be a narrative, while justified, belies the emotional journey on which Chasland has the opportunity to take his audience. This, however, comes purely from an understanding of the ability Chasland has a performer and the highest of standards to which I hold him. That being said, Auckland Pride is about celebrating the artistic voices of the community, and Chasland’s voice is, quite, simply, unparalleled. However, without a narrative to tie together the themes which Chasland addresses, the social commentary at the end of the show feels more like an epilogue than a part of it – and there are plenty of themes with which to do this in congruity with his message, particularly the idea of shame.
As a concept, shame is a brutal social construct. Like many others in the human condition, it is based on our need to survive, but more often than not it can cripple those it affects. This is particularly true of performers. Chasland, however, has no shame, because he has no need for it. He is a truly incomparable performer. Come to think of it, I am disappointed. I’m disappointed that we don’t have more shame for letting one of the greatest vocal talents of our country leave our shores.
Leather Lungs plays at Q Loft as part of Auckland Pride until Feb 10.