Jul 11, 2009

Vic Chesnutt @ The Factory

'Twas a strange night. Most peculiar. Firstly, we arrived to a sparsely filled venue. It would seem that despite Vic Chesnutt's huge body of work and credibility, he is probably not too well known in these parts. In fact, I only own two of his albums. But they are very impressive, so I was intrigued to see him live. So, the support act was a put together duo of WA singer (although now US based) Natalie D-Napoleon and Melbourne singer Andre Hooke. He was very good. She wasn't. Hooke, of Melbourne band Khancoban, has a tender voice and was a very good guitar player. I could see him again. But without her. Her voice was hard to like and her songs were mediocre at best. Not a great start.

Then The Factory was starting to fill out a bit more as the main man arrived. Vic Chesnutt. He was on the bill as playing with Victoria Williams, but he arrived on stage alone and gave us 45 minutes of a weird combination of beauty, strangeness, heartbreak and oddity. For those not in the know, Chesnutt was left a paraplegic at the age of eighteen after breaking his neck in a car accident. But he has gone on to record a multitude of albums and receive huge acclaim. He gets around in a wheelchair and although he was static on stage, his music moved us greatly. He started with a warm up, actually singing "I am warming up...". His wit is quite biting, as he provided much humour through out the night. He didn't seem to have a set list either as he constantly thought out loud what he should play, taking requests from the audience along the way. So, he played some old material and some new stuff as well. It would seem that his hands are not 100% functional, having to rub them between chords. So, it would seem he sticks to songs with fairly simple arrangements, leaving the more complex songs at home. Twice he abandoned two songs from "North Star Deserter". Which was a pity, but the songs he gave us were truly effective. His voice is eathbound and magnetic, his lyrics full of candour and heart and wit and he has a strange sort of presence of stage.

So, then Victoria Williams joined us. She is a country singer from California, who I was totally unfamiliar with. I expected some sort of cross between Patty Griffin and Sheryl Crow. Boy, was I wrong. She ambled on stage and was absent minded to say the least. She started to play and then realised her guitar was not plugged in. But her guitar chords were quite interesting and I was hoping for something different. Different it was, when she begun to sing. Her voice was unique to say the least. Kind of out of tune, but not really in an endearing way and there was a distinct absence of melody. So, after a few songs we made our early exit. Having seen the main attraction in Chesnutt, that was enough. A mixed night, but still rewarding.

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