Jul 21, 2019

Local Natives @ Oxford Art Factory

In an age of bland for the masses pop music with easy beats and forgettable lyrics it's a pleasure and a privilege to witness a band that is actually based on the idea of songwriting. A band that not only makes you move but makes you feel. Feel big time. That band is California's very own Local Natives. They should be playing to super sized stadiums but we are very lucky that they can still do small sized club shows. It makes for a personal and wonderful intimate experience. That was Friday night at the Oxford Art Factory. It was their first show in Australia for six years and we welcomed them back with open arms.

Local Natives have ridiculous talent. Their songs are full of passion and beauty and a certain amount of joy. But the big thing about them is their sheer vocal power. They can all sing and they all do. But the two main man are Taylor Rice and Kelsey Ayer. They are front and centre and their voices chime and interweave with great beauty. It's a glorious sight. Whether on an outright rocker like 'Sun Hands' or a joyous ballad like 'Cafe Amarillo'. It's all there. Just simply sublime. And the set list was pitched just right. We had a good selection from this year's excellent 'Violet Street' but they balanced the night with choice cuts from their first three albums. My absolute favourite was the superb 'Colombia'. But to be sure, it was all greatness personified.

Set List
Wide Eyes
I Saw You Close Your Eyes
Megaton Mile
Past Lives
Cafe Amarillo
Heavy Feet
Sun Hands
You & I
Garden of Elysian
Dark Days
When Am I Gonna Lose You

Who Knows, Who Cares

Jun 5, 2019

Sharon Van Etten @ Sydney Opera House

Sharon Van Etten has certainly arrived. We first saw her a few years ago at the Sydney Festival. A shining talent with her acoustic guitar. Fast forward to Saturday night at the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid and she has exploded into a supernova. After a five year absence Sharon returned this year with a new album in 'Remind Me Tomorrow'. It was and is a captivating album, an expansion of sound. More synths, more upbeat, but still having that signature bare honesty. To see it live was a distinct pleasure to be sure.

Ultimately we would hear all 10 tracks from her new album and they simply exploded live. From the pounding rhythm of 'Comeback Kid' to the roar power of 'Hands' it was all spectacular. 'Hands' was my favourite but you could make a solid case for the emotional heavyweight in 'Seventeen' or the stark beauty of 'Jupiter 4'. Ms Van Etten dominated the stage in her red valour suit. Often she was sans instrument, just her prowling the stage. But there were numbers where she strapped on the guitar or sat down to play keyboard. The latter was especially effective on the solo cover of 'Black Boys on Mopeds'. She was ably backed by her four band members, all professional and gifted in the extreme. A standing ovation led to a welcomed encore which included the powerhouse 'Serpents'. All in all it was a distinct privilege to see such an extreme talent.

Set List
Jupiter 4
Comeback Kid
No One's Easy To Love
One Day
Memorial Day
You Shadow
Black Boys on Mopeds (Sinead O'Connor cover)
Every Time the Sun Comes Up

I Told You Everything
Love More

May 29, 2019

Dirty Three @ Sydney Opera House

Spectacular. Transcendent. Incendiary. These words could describe Dirty Three at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday night, but honestly they still don't probably do justice to the magnificent show we witnessed. A true privilege and pleasure to be there. Dirty Three are an iconic trio formed in Melbourne close to thirty years ago. Their first album was self titled and this year marks the 25 year anniversary of that explosive album. As such it was a great idea to have the band perform the record in full as part of the 2019 Vivid Festival.

The album consists of 7 songs and lasts approximately 45 minutes but this performance took it to nearly double the length. Two reasons. Songs were elongated and expanded to great effect. Best example being the blockbuster opener in 'Indian Love Song'. This song tore the roof off. Powerful and ecstatic to dramatic effect. Then there is Warren Ellis, the talismanic lead man. A true Australian icon. A living national treasure. He takes time between songs to tell rambling stories that take strange paths and unique twists. He comes across as the crazy old uncle in your family. His stories are about life and death, drugs and love and everything in between. But he is much more than that. His violin work is unique and visionary. He cajoles his instrument to produce ungodly sounds. On 'Odd Couple' he even pulled out the piano accordion. But the Dirty Three are more than one man. Jim White is in my opinion the greatest drummer to have ever lived. He can do it all. He can be subtle and bombastic. His ability to draw out sounds is second to none. Then there is the bedrock in Mick Turner. A wonderful guitarist, I think his playing is quite possibly under rated if that is possible. Their night reached a peak in the classic 'Everything's Fucked'. A song that provokes emotional peaks to this day. When the album concluded you could see the band didn't want to stop. So we had the added pleasure of four songs from 'Horse Stories', an album I consider to be their best. What a way to conclude a night from a legendary Australian band.

Set List
Indian Love Song
Better Go Home Soon
Odd Couple
Kim's Dirt
Everything's Fucked
The Last Night
Dirty Equation
1000 Miles
Sue's Last Ride
I Remember a Time When You Used To Love Me

May 22, 2019

Jeff Tweedy @ Metro Theatre

I have seen Wilco countless times over the years. The venerable Chicago band always putting on an excellent show. I even saw Tweedy a couple of years, the band headed by Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer. Monday night though at the Metro Theatre I had the extreme pleasure of seeing the great man himself solo. It was truly solo too. Just Jeff Tweedy armed with a couple of acoustic guitars. For close on two hours he gave a superb performance. Amazing songs, great wit and comedic timing and that special voice that is warm and rich and full of humanity.

Mr Tweedy opened with the classic Wilco song 'Via Chicago' and the night was off and running. He would then proceed to weave and wander through his thirty years of stellar songwriting. Many Wilco songs, but he also gave some tunes from the band that preceded them in Uncle Tupelo. I especially loved 'New Madrid'. Hearing it live it really struck me just how beautiful the melody is. Also on the night were a couple of songs from the Billy Bragg collaboration and of course a number of songs from his two recent solo albums. Of these my particular favourite was 'Having Been Is No Way to Be'. Of the Wilco songs it was impossible not to love them all but special mention goes to 'Hummingbird' and 'Jesus, Etc.', the latter inducing a warm crowd singalong. If the music was sublime and unforgettable then the wit and banter of Jeff elevated the night even further. He is such a great storyteller, armed with an extremely dry wit. His stories of Uncle Tupelo and life on the road were especially welcome. Then the encore just blew me way. 'Misunderstood' (perhaps my favourite Wilco song) followed by the swooning beauty of the Uncle Tupelo classic 'Acuff-Rose'. A very special night in the hands of an American songwriting icon.

Set List
Via Chicago (Wilco song)
Bombs Above
Some Birds
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Wilco song)
New Madrid (Uncle Tupelo song)
I Know What It's Like
Hummingbird (Wilco song)
Lost Love
Remember the Mountain Bed (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)
Having Been Is No Way to Be
Jesus, Etc. (Wilco Song)
It Must Be Love (Labi Siffre cover)
I'm the Man Who Loves You (Wilco song)
Let's Go Rain
Impossible Germany (Wilco song)
Passenger Side (Wilco song)
California Stars (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)

Misunderstood (Wilco song)
Acuff-Rose (Uncle Tupelo song)

May 12, 2019

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever @ Manning Bar

In a short space of time Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have proven themselves to be one of the finest bands that Australia have to offer. A sold out Manning Bar on Friday night proved that. Close to a year since their excellent debut album in 'Hope Downs' was released the songs have become dear to the hearts of all their fans. We heard all of that plus old favourites from their first EP. One of those songs in 'Julie's Place' opened the night and it was a great opener indeed. The band were in fine form, chiming and rollicking guitars bouncing off each other to create a lush and fervent sound. This band are super talented, containing great guitarists that continually push the sound forward and onward and upward. Three lead vocalists add to the variety of the sound, with each singer adding a different layer to the sounds of the songs. It was a great night with highlights for being 'Sister's Jeans' and 'Taling Straight'. One downside of the night though was the presence of so many 'bros'. You know the type. Bullish men that are passively aggressive, taking over the space around them. It can be a bit disconcerting, especially to those in close proximity. A rolling mosh pit even broke out which all seemed a bit unnecessary for a band of this type. It all seems a pity on what was otherwise a great night.

Set List
Julie's Place
Clean Slate
The Hammer
Time in Common
Sister's Jeans
Read My Mind
Sick Bug
An Air Conditioned Man
Exclusive Grave
Big Fence
In the Capital
Talking Straight
Fountain of Good Fortune
French Press

Orinoco Flow (Enya cover)

Apr 19, 2019

Kurt Vile @ Enmore Theatre

There are performers who strut the stage as if they own it. Nick Cave and Josh Tillman are two that come to mind. Then there are performers who look like they don't naturally belong there. Kurt Vile is one that comes to mind. But when you are as musicially talented as Kurt is then ultimately it doesn't really matter. Kurt vile is full of goofy charm and innate shyness. He hunches over his guitar and doesn't say much. Escept to stop and thank the audience for coming. He seems a totally genuine soul who just doesn't naturally exist on a stage. But his supreme talent as a musician demands his place on stage. Monday night at the Enmore Theatre I was delighted to see him again. He has become a regular visitor to ur shores but I will always seek out his shows.

Last year Kurt released his latest album in 'Bottle It In' and as per usual it was a great pleasure. Long and seismic guitar tones. His songs lope and canter at their own pace. Languid and quite beautiful. This show would showcase a few tunes from that album but also many from his burgeoning career. Sadly we didn't receive 'One Trick Ponies' from his latest album but songs like 'Check Baby' and 'Bassackwards' absolutely slayed live. Kurt is such a natural master of the guitar. I think I counted at least three electric guitars that he used plus his beautiful acoustic which he showed off on the epic 'Wakin On a Pretty Day' and also 'Peeping Tomboy' which was performed by Kurt solo. He also broke out the banjo on 'I'm an Outlaw' to ecstatic acclaim. Backed by his excellent Violators Mr Vile proved yet again that exquisite musicianship can always carry the day.

Set List
Loading Zones
Jesus Fever
I'm an Outlaw
Check Baby
Girl Called Alex
Cold Was the Wind
Peeping Tomboy (Kurt solo)
Yeah Bones
Wakin' On a Pretty Day
KV Crimes
Puppet To The Man
Wild Imagination

Pretty Pimpin'
Baby's Arms

Mar 29, 2019

Lucy Dacus @ Oxford Art Factory

Firstly, Lucy Dacus is an incredible talent. Secondly, her show Wednesday night at the Oxford Art Factory was wonderful in so many ways. Thirdly, I can't wait to see her again. Ms Dacus has released two highly acclaimed albums. They are intricate, intelligent records full of grace and wit. It was an enormous pleasure to hear tracks from both on Wednesday night. Naturally the set leaned more heavily on last year's 'Historian'. My favourite was the blockbuster of a song in 'Timefighter' and the serenely powerful 'Yours & Mine'. Obviously the greatness that is 'Night Shift' received the biggest cheers. It lifted the roof for sure. Lucy also played two new songs solo and both were honestly fantastic. My absolute favourite song of the night though was 'Map on a Wall'. It was epic and extraordinary. I had tweeted earlier in the day that I would love it if she could play it so I like to think that I played a small part in the song being played. Special mention should also go the band. They were great. Totally in sync with Lucy creating a rapturous and euphoric sound. A night to be long remembered.

Set List
Fool's Gold (Lucy solo)
The Shell
Green Eyes, Red Face
La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf cover)
Yours & Mine
Map on a Wall
I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore
Night Shift
New Song (Lucy solo) - "I would kill him"