Feb 9, 2016

Gillian Welch @ Enmore Theatre

To say Gillian Welch at the Enmore Theatre Monday night was a great music gig would not do the night justice. This was so much more. I have rarely, if ever, seen two performers so in sync. Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings inhabit a space few can. They draw on the all the rich traditions of American music and create a sound that is classic and timeless. Their playing is faultless. Rawlings in particular is a marvel on his 80 year old guitar. They play dark, they play light, they play joy, they play sad. They touch a vein of humanity that reminds us of the greatness of music. They play without a band, without amps, without artifice. The music stands on its own. It speaks of country and time and place. It is majestic and also heartfelt. 'Revelator' blew me away and by the time the played 'I'll Fly Away' I was shaking with joy. She didn't play Wrecking Ball. That is the ONLY fault I can find. Oh yeah they played the last song without mics. I think a few people cried. I did. 

The reverence in the room tonight was something I have rarely experienced. It was palpable. It's been a long time since Gillian Welch graced our presence. Too long. But it was worth the wait. This was greatness on every level imaginable. It was music at its purest. So fine. So pure. So beautiful.

Set List
Scarlet Town
Wayside/Back in Time
Rock of Ages
The Way It Will Be
The Way It Goes
Elvis Presley Blues
One More Dollar
I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll
Red Clay Halo

No One Knows My Name
Hard Times
Down Along the Dixie Line
Six White Horses
Sweet Tooth (Dave Rawlings Machine cover)
Dark Turn of Mind
Caleb Meyer

Look at Miss Ohio
I'll Fly Away (The Humbard Family cover)

Hickory Wind (Gram Parsons cover)
Jackson (Johnny Cash cover)

Long Black Veil (Lefty Frizzell cover)

Feb 4, 2016

Beach House @ Sydney Opera House

To say of a band that they sound like no one else is I believe a major compliment. Of course that would entail them actually sounding good. Beach House complete both categories. And then some. Their driving melodic dream pop truly is unique. And no doubt a big factor in that judgement is the voice of Victoria Legrand. It's deep cannon of a voice. It has real strength and power and also a smattering of melancholy. Beach House are truly a force of nature.

Wednesday night they played the Sydney Opera House for the first time and it was special. Although louder than I expected. In fact early on it threw me a bit. Drums were featured very heavily and so was the guitar. This seemed to take away the nuances on beloved songs such as 'Walk in the Park'. But it did settle in or maybe I got used to it. So by the time new favourite 'All Your Yeahs' came around I was sold on the journey. This pulsating track showcased the band's strengths beautifully. Robust keyboards, hypnotic guitar and that Legrand voice. They soon followed with the exquisite 'Silver Soul' and we were off and running. '10 Mile Stereo' is always a live highlight and tonight was no letdown. It also was accompanied by a stellar light show, giving extra oomph to each song. I must say though that 'On the Sea' was a welcome respite from the almost sonic blast. This quiet beauty of a song came just at the right time. But the rest of the show flowed nicely, ending well with the superb 'Myth'. A short encore was rounded off by the doom laden 'Elegy to the Void' and thus completed a wonderful night. Not perfect though, as I missed the more subtle aspects of their music, but still a timely reminder of the talent Beach House possess.

Set List
Walk in the Park
All Your Yeahs
Silver Soul
Space Song
10 Mile Stereo
On the Sea
One Thing
Master of None
Beyond Love

Elegy to the Void

Jan 24, 2016

Ryley Walker @ Famous Spiegeltent

Saturday evening at the Famous Spiegeltent was to be our last Sydney Festival event this year. And we always try to take in a Spiegeltent show as the atmosphere and lighting normally make for a special show. The best artist that was playing this venue this year I believe was Chicago guitarist Ryley Walker. And it turned out to be a good choice as his show was very enjoyable. A great display of soulful singing and expert guitar playing. It certainly was a good way to spend a Saturday.

Ryley Walker is an extremely talented guitarist whose finger picking style is fast and furious and very skillful. His music has edges of jazz and is very rhythmical. His singing is soulful and comforting. He was accompanied on stage by a double bass player who added the right touches. He played a variety of songs from his catalogue and included a Bert Jansch cover, a singer he sometimes compared to. He is also likened to Tim Buckley. Which I can see. But Ryley is definitely his own talent. Indeed, a man of great talent.

Set List
The Roundabout
Sullen Mind
Age Old Tale
I Feel Free
The Great and Undecided
Build Another Band (Bert Jansch cover)
Good Posture For Peace
Funny Thing She Said
Primrose Green

Jan 23, 2016

Joanna Newsom @ Sydney Opera House

It's hard to believe sometimes that Joanna Newsom is one of us. She seems to inhabit a world that we don't feel a part of. Her music is other worldly, ethereal and almost angelic. After a 5 year absence she returned to the Sydney Opera House on Thursday night as part of the Sydney Festival. This was the fourth time we had seen her and it was just as magical and wonderful as all the previous times. Of course the harp sets her apart but it so much more than that. There is the voice, it's certainly unique. But it also tender and strong and powerful. But it's more than that. Maybe it's the lyrics. They are complex and strange and beautiful. The music is complex and surprising. Maybe it's a combination of all of it. It certainly works and this show was just magical, filled with beautiful and tender moments.

The show was mainly made up from Joanna's newest album, the excellent 'Divers'. This song itself was a standout, but so were memorable songs such as 'Anecdotes' and 'Sapokanikan'. But perhaps the absolute highlight was the epic song of love in 'Emily'. This totally floored me. Her band was wonderful, so talented and adept at everything. Especially Ryan Francesconi who basically played everything. Also should mention the work of Pete Newsom, her brother, on drums. As closing song 'Baby Birch' lingered long in the mind I thought how lucky to have talents such as Newsom exist in the world.

Set List
Bridges and Balloons
Soft as Chalk
Waltz of the 101st Lightborne
Have One On Me
Peach, Plum, Pear
Goose Eggs
Leaving the City
Time, as a Symptom

Go Long
Baby Birch

Jan 17, 2016

Best 50 Albums Of 2015

In my last review of 2015 I look back at my favourite albums. I would say that 2015 brought an array of great albums without any that one might like to be considered classics. Hip hop I think had a pretty great year. Of course Kendrick Lamar dominated discussions but we also received great albums from Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt. Some older acts returned with very solid albums such as Built to Spill, Wilco, Modest Mouse and My Morning Jacket. Panda Bear reminded us why he such a musical genius and Titus Andronicus gave us an epic opus that took months to digest properly. Whilst Kurt Vile and Deerhunter showed that they are two of the more vital and creative acts going around at the moment. On the local scene I couldn't love Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett but I did love Dick Diver, Royal Headache and Gang of Youths. But one album gave me more pleasure than any other. Californian songsmith Mikal Cronin returned with his third album and it was an ecstatic triumph. It was ambitious, full of imagination and brimming with melody. I sincerely loved every song on the album. Therefore MCIII was my album of 2015.

1. MCIII-Mikal Cronin
2. The Most Lamentable Tragedy-Titus Andronicus
3. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper-Panda Bear
4. B'lieve I'm Going Down-Kurt Vile
5. I Love You, Honeybear-Father John Misty
6. Carrie & Lowell-Sufjan Stevens
7. Poison Season-Destroyer
8. Untethered Moon-Built to Spill
9. Sauna -Mount Eerie
10. Fading Frontier-Deerhunter
11. Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress-Godspeed You! Black Emperor
12. Pickpocket's Locket-Frog Eyes
13. To Pimp a Butterfly-Kendrick Lamar
14. Mutilator Defeated at Last-Thee Oh Sees
15. Divers-Joanna Newsom
16. Acne/Ears-Roadside Graves
17. Depression Cherry-Beach House
18. Star Wars-Wilco
19. Gliss Riffer-Dan Deacon
20. Strangers to Ourselves-Modest Mouse
21. No Cities to Love-Sleater-Kinney
22. Summertime '06-Vince Staples
23. Melbourne, Florida-Dick Diver
24. Individ-The Dodos
25. Viet Cong-Viet Cong
26. Death Magic-HEALTH
27. High-Royal Headache
28. Thank Your Lucky Stars-Beach House
29. Sun Coming Down-Ought
30. Payola-Desaparecidos
31. Dumb Flesh-Blanck Mass
32. Ivy Tripp-Waxahatchee
33. Savage Hills Ballroom-Youth Lagoon
34. New Gold Mountain-New Gum Sarn
35. Many Moons-Martin Courtney
36. Teens of Style-Car Seat Headrest
37. Ones and Sixes-Low
38. What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World-The Decemberists
39. Club Meds-Dan Mangan and Blacksmith
40. Goon-Tobias Jesso Jr
41. IF-Paul De Jong
42. II-Fuzz
43. Sound & Color-Alabama Shakes
44. The Positions-Gang of Youths
45. Return to the Moon-EL VY
46. We Are Undone-Two Gallants
47. Gunnera-Pfarmers
48. Primrose Green-Ryley Walker
49. The Waterfall-My Morning Jacket
50. Half Free-U.S. Girls

Jan 16, 2016

Dirty Three @ State Theatre

There is little doubt in my mind that Dirty Three are one of the greatest bands that this country has ever produced. Perhaps the greatest. They are unique. A mad man with electric charisma leading the way with a violin. For 26 years they have ruled. Dazzled. Stunned. Friday night at the State Theatre was the latest time that I have seen them live, one of many over the years. They never let me down. Or anyone else I would think. Greatness they are and greatness they gave.

They were here as part of Sydney Festival and for close to two hours they assailed us with their stellar music. Their fluidity as an ensemble is such that they appear always in sync, even if they don't play as much together as they used to. Each movement travels among the trio, producing an electricity that is truly tangible. Mick Turner is the quiet achiever of the group, supplying the backbone of guitar. Jim White possesses the drum kit like few other. His range is off the charts, so subtle and yet so powerful. Then there is Warren Ellis. The man is truly a wonder. His movements, his violin playing, his everything. His stories are loopy, engaging, funny and quite often profound. He regales us with wit about drug taking in the 90s, meeting Christy Moore at a festival in Cork and the legitimacy of Rupert Murdoch's latest engagement. Then there is the music. Loud, epic, frenetic, gentle, subtle, moving. All great. But maybe the best was the sheer epicness of "Some Summers They Drop Like Flys". For me I am truly grateful that Dirty Three exist.

Set List
1000 Miles
Some Summers They Drop Like Flys
Sea Above, Sky Below
Indian Love Song
Everything's Fucked
Authentic Celestial Music
Lullaby for Christie
The Zither Player
Sue's Last Ride

Jan 15, 2016

Thee Oh Sees @ Newtown Social Club

Bodies flying. Arms flailing. This was old school rock for the new crowd. Thee Oh Sees are something special live. So much spirit and energy on stage. I had seen the band once before at a festival but this was the first time seeing them exclusively. Thursday night was the first of two sold out shows at the Newtown Social Club and it was an hour of sweat, passion and much joy. They went hard and then left. No encore. No fuss. Just 100 per cent effort.

Their set up is a bit unique. Two drummers front and centre, a bass player on the left and then main man John Dwyer on the right. Writhing at the microphone. Dancing with his guitar. Shrieking and hollering. The crowd lapped it up. There was moshing, crowd surfing. Even a bit of old fashioned stage diving. The band didn't care. They ploughed on. The music is quite rhythmical, with the heavy leaning on drums and bass. It's guaranteed to move you. Especially when they hit the deep groove of "Turned Out Light" and "Toe Cutter - Thumb Buster". It was made to drive you upwards. Physically and emotionally. In these days of cookie cutter music Thee Oh Sees are certainly holding the flame for the spirit of rock.

Set List (totally incomplete but I'm sure they played some of these)
I Come From the Mountain
Rogue Planet
The Dream
Tidal Wave
Turned Out Light
Toe Cutter - Thumb Buster
Dead Energy
Sticky Hulks
Withered Hand
Contraption/Soul Desert
Carrion Crawler