Gareth Liddiard + Dan Kelly – The East Brunswick Club, Melbourne (08/04/2011)

Dan Kelly stood hunched over a Macbook computer, playing iTunes DJ at his own gig. As he wandered off to greet some people, a loud Bollywood-inspired dance song, which sounded like it would have been at home in an early Nintendo game, blared out of the PA system, and various members of the still arriving crowd turned their heads instinctively towards the soundman, who glanced nervously in turn at the laptop screen. This was, of course, merely Kelly’s intended style; a cheeky but affectionate nod to tack, and what else could you expect from a man who, in his shows since the last year, has been championing Bindi Irwin as “the next Mad Max of the apocalypse”.

As Rebecca Black’s ‘hit’ single Friday began, Kelly took to the stage, while mouthing the words and jamming along on his electric guitar. Sporting his trademark quiff and a white linen suit, he then preceded to woo the crowd with his light-hearted (and often tongue-in-cheek) one-man show. Performing mainly material from last year’s Dan Kelly’s Dream, Kelly relied on both the indulgence of the audience in performing the falsetto backing vocal parts which are littered throughout the set, as well as the use of a sampler and effects pedals. At minimum these were used to add odd or comedic noises, such as a sample of a large cheering crowd at the end of a song, and at best were used to create a whole montage of sounds in an engaging and musical fashion, such as during set closer and standout Dan Kelly’s Dream. Other highlights were the ‘swear-along’ during Drunk on Election Night from 2006’s Drowning in the Fountain of Youth, a song which received by far the biggest crowd response, where we were urged to sweetly repeat the hook “cocksucker, motherfucker”. Kelly’s ability to charm and engage an audience while interweaving humorous anecdotes between songs made him a strangely ideal pairing for tonight’s double bill.

Every once in awhile a record comes along that changes the Australian musical landscape. A work that can be identified as something more than just this summer’s entertainment; that is intended instead to be art. Gareth Liddiard’s Strange Tourist, released in October last year, is exactly that kind of album. A dense and poetic collection of songs delivered with all the intensity of his regular band The Drones, but also exposed in their rawest form, featuring only Liddiard’s harsh intonation and drawl along with a single acoustic guitar. The result on record is exaggerated to an even greater extent when the material is performed live; being an at times harrowing and intense journey through the stories of one of this country’s finest writers. Due to the fervent nature of the delivery and the usually serious nature of the subject matter, in concert Liddiard employs a relaxed and charming approach, using witty asides, and by generally not appearing to take himself too seriously. “Imagine banging a rock against the head of a goat,” he announced to the crowd in a typically deadpan drawl, “ that’s my music”. Using self-deprecating humour as a device works in his favour very well and allows moments of relief between songs to an audience who are being asked to commit to a certain level of concentration during these long, lyrically and emotionally complex narratives.

To Liddiard’s credit, and to an even greater extent than achieved on record, he had the entire crowd hanging on every word, and one could not help but be transfixed as the singer became enveloped in the stories, particularly during The Radicalisation of D, the much-discussed, somewhat sympathetic 16 minute narrative of a young Australian man’s decline into extremism. One word that could be heard being continuously repeated afterwards was ‘intense’. Although the entire show consisted of a single man, an acoustic guitar and a noisy smoke machine, for the full hour and a half the audience stood captivated, unable to look away and barely able to find an appropriate moment to replenish drinks. Almost all of Strange Tourist was performed, and we were also treated to three songs from the Drones’ back catalogue, which were slipped seamlessly into the set. Among them was standard show closer Sharkfin Blues, from 2005’s Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By.

Those who attended the East Brunswick Club on Friday, April 8th were treated to a double bill by two quite different yet complementary performers. One, a strange, acid-trip influenced, Liberal-party-hating prophet of the apocalypse, who just happens to be playing with his uncle in support of Bob Dylan next month. The other, an affable, quintessentially Australian bloke, who just happens to be in one of the biggest bands in the country. Brought together by song, we dispersed again, knowing that an experience had been shared and that sage advice had been proffered and accepted. As the song says, after all, ‘you gotta get down on Fri-day…’

Originally published on FasterLouder on 13/04/2011. View original article.

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