Shanghai shake up Geraldton gig scene

Headshot of Adam Poulsen
Adam PoulsenGeraldton Guardian
Lead guitarist Dave Mackintosh, right, and his partner, vocalist and saxophonist Donelle Bleakley, make up Geraldton duo Shanghai.
Camera IconLead guitarist Dave Mackintosh, right, and his partner, vocalist and saxophonist Donelle Bleakley, make up Geraldton duo Shanghai. Credit: Adam Poulsen, The Geraldton Guardian

Two-piece band Shanghai might just be the most versatile live act in Geraldton.

Lead guitarist Dave Mackintosh and his partner, vocalist and saxophonist Donelle Bleakley, have a vast repertoire, spanning from the 60s to the contemporary.

But what separates Shanghai from many cover bands is their mastery of diverse musical styles and ability to adapt to every genre they play. The band’s range covers all manner of popular classics, including pop and most styles of rock, from soft, classic and country, right up to heavy rock.

“Occasionally, we do songs that will show instruments off and differentiate us from everybody — songs that we know other bands won’t be able to do as well, and that give us a bit of self-identity,” Mackintosh said.

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Shanghai also have a bag of timeless and tastefully written originals, which they can break out on request.

Mackintosh’s dazzling guitar skills are evident in his tasteful licks and blistering leads. But far from being a one-dimensional fretboard shredder, he can play just about anything with genuine feel.

Bleakley’s powerful vocals are distinctive but versatile, always adapting seamlessly to every song. Her range is huge and she can handle anything from gentle acoustic ballads to wailing hard rock numbers without missing a note.

Rather than relying on sterile, programmed backing tracks, the pair record all backup bass and drum tracks in their home studio, giving their sound added authenticity.

While performing, Bleakley sometimes takes on backup guitar and flute duties, while Mackintosh handles backing vocals.

Originally formed as a Sydney-based six-piece in 1991, Shanghai have played with numerous line-ups based in several States.

Before disbanding early in the millennium, they supported several big-name acts including Mental as Anything, The Angels, Joe Camilleri and Ross Wilson.

“We had dinner with the guys from Mental as Anything. They were awesome,” Mackintosh said.

“They couldn’t get enough of us because I keep snakes, so as soon as they knew that, they just wanted to talk snakes forever.”

After a 10-year hiatus, Mackintosh and Bleakley — both members of the original line-up — decided to resurrect the band a few years after moving to Geraldton in 2013.

“I couldn’t get a job, so I thought I’d better jump back on the old horse,” Mackintosh explained.

“Suddenly, I had to start thinking about what music was current. And to be honest, I struggled to find any music that was current that I enjoyed playing. It’s hard to find a song with a strong melody that just stands out any more. Occasionally, one will stumble along — Ed Sheeran is probably one of the artists that still brings good hits out.”

Although Shanghai do play contemporary songs, Mackintosh said it was the classics that got the best response. “People are still asking for Fleetwood Mac and Alanis Morissette. Even with the young people, we still get way more mileage out of doing the old stuff,” he said.

Mackintosh started playing guitar at 15 after he was blown away by Irish rock legends Thin Lizzy.

He later drew inspiration from Sydney hard rockers Noiseworks, among others.

Bleakley was immersed in music at a young age and drawn to ABBA and Creedence Clearwater Revival early on. “I’ve been singing since I was about four, because I’ve got an older sister who’s eight years older than me and she always sung as well,” she said. “Then I started learning instruments at the age of 13.”

Now, some of her favourites include Pink, Adele, Madonna and Morissette.

Shanghai can be seen playing at pubs around Geraldton, as well as private functions, birthdays and weddings and can be reached via their Facebook page.

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