Oct 31, 2008

Augie March @ Metro Theatre

Augie March played at the Metro Theatre Thursday night. The sound was great. The lighting was great. The band are excellent musicians, who barely miss a beat. Glenn Richards possesses a great voice. Yet, and yet, the show failed to move me. I think there are a couple of reasons, but the one that strikes me the most is this. This band seems to play with a lack of joy. It seems a chore, there is a discernible lack of enthusiasm on display. Another factor for my slight indifference is probably that I am not a diehard Augie March in the first place. For those of that persuasion, it quite possibly could have been a hugely enjoyable experience. For me though, I walked away thinking that I saw a performance that was reasonable, but not earth shattering. Harsh maybe, but I can only deliver to you my true feelings.

My first proper time with this lauded band was at the same venue about 18 months ago. That night was a bit of a disaster, as the crowd was terrible. Talkative and non attentive, they were a living nightmare. The music on display was OK, but it was a hard night to enjoy. Thankfully, last night's crowd was much better. Not perfect, but bearable. So, to the music. As you might know, Augie March have a new album, "Watch Me Disappear". The album, even to lifelong fans, seems disappointing. Too slick and processed, lacking grit and earthiness. Naturally, this show would see the new material feature heavily. The title track, opened the show, and this was not a great start. This song is just not very good. Thankfully, two of my favourites followed. "Lupus" is very catchy and hummable, whilst "Pennywhistle" (with a full horn section) was a sheer delight. After that though, the new material stumbled rather then soared. "The Glenorchy Bunyip" was pretty nice though, but the others just sort of flatlined. Half through the set Glenn Richards went solo acoustic with a beautiful rendition of "The Slant". This song was gorgeous and was stark evidence to me that I definitely prefer the band's slower songs. They seem to have more substance and importance then the uptempo poppier numbers. The second half of the set leant heavily on "Moo, You Bloody Choir" and it was probably predictable that their classic "One Crowded Hour" would be the closer. It's a great song to be sure and its potency is pretty hard to resist. So, the band left a little after midnight, then returned for an encore. With mixed results. I would have thought that a couple of rousing rocking numbers would have done the trick, but they played two slower songs that lacked any sort of energy. "Brundisium" was pretty special though and "This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers" was great to hear, a howling song that always sounds great live and a good indication of the band's abilities.

Another feature of the night was the behaviour of Glenn Richards. A known perfectionist, he seems to find it hard to enjoy the live experience. I counted 3 songs where he stopped and started again, unhappy with the sound or just the way the song was going. At one point he muttered "Why does this always happen to us?" an attitude that seems overly pessimistic. The man has a seriously good voice and writes superb lyrics. I am not expecting the second coming of Will Sheff on stage, but I think a little joy would go a long way to making an Augie March show much more enjoyable. To me, just a voice in the darkness, I think Mr Richards might be better suited breaking out of the confines of the whole rock experience and carving out a solo career. I saw him do a solo support last year for Wilco and he was fantastic. Please don't crucify me Augie March fans, just a humble writer's opinion.

Set List
Watch Me Disappear
The Glenorchy Bunyip
The Cold Acre
Mugged By The Mob
Farmer's Son
The Devil In Me
The Slant
Owen's Lament
Thin Captain Crackers
The Baron Of Sentiment
One Crowded Hour

The Drowning Dream
This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers
There Is No Such Place


  • At December 02, 2008 , Blogger Nicholas said...

    Glen was indeed fantastic when he played solo as support for Wilco, but even that night he had trouble with his hands because he kept wringing them between songs and I seem to recall he complained about them once or twice. Perhaps he just doesn't like live performance?

  • At December 10, 2008 , Blogger Mad Cat Lady said...

    solo for wilco: yep he had a fearsome sounding cold and his hands kept cramping up, but he was in a good mood and quite delightful.

    Sydney show: concur - crucifixion not imminent :) Second Melbourne show was awesome and brisbane was great too :)


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