Tonight is my first visit to The Maram and I am not sure what to expect, from the venue or the show.
After two superb albums and many shows under the Whitley name, Lawrence Greenwood has decided the music business may not be for him. This is his final Australian tour and tonight will be his last Canberra show. Will tonight be a joyous farewell, a teary goodbye?
Opening act Seagull's introspective acoustic set fails to capture much attention as the small crowd fills up on beers and chats quietly.
The crowd has thickened out by the time Whitley comes on stage, immediately admitting that when he entered the venue he thought that he was booked to play in the pool table-filled bistro. His first reaction to this was to put a gun in his mouth and end it all now (this story told with his thumb cocked and fingers in his mouth - "bite down on the steel and wait for the lead"). Luckily, the band room at The Maram is a wonderful space for performer and punter alike, and the set starts with Cheap Clothes.
Barely three lines into his second song (Bright White Lights) Whitley stops abruptly, (almost) everyone in the room falls silent as he mimics two gossiping girls:
"Did you hear Sharon missed her period, OMG is she pregnant,...SHUT THE FUCK UP"
Greenwood clearly has a low tolerance for people talking though his show - perhaps one of the reasons he has decided to call it quits on his career as Whitley.
Songs like I Remember, I and All Is Whole are all superb but the best/most entertaining parts of tonight's performance come between songs. Greenwood repeatedly talks of pushing a boulder up hill ("two steps forward, three steps back"), rough nights in spent Frankston, bikies and the pleasure he gets from head shot-ing his own horse in Red Dead.
Introduced as "a song about a girl I use to follow around Melbourne", the acoustic version of Killer is just as frightening as its recorded original.
Late in the show when another person starts talking, Whitley has had enough. Describing talking during a show "like shining a laser pointer into the eyes of someone at an art gallery", Greenwood gets into an argument with a boozed punter, glasses are smashed and the audience member is escorted out of the venue.
Keep pushing the boulder up that hill...
As More Than Life is introduced as "this one is about suicide", I am starting to get a much better idea of why Greenwood is calling time on Whitley.
The show ends with Lost In Time, and most of the crowd leaves before Greenwood comes out to share a platter of sandwiches with those who remain. Talking to the man off stage it is hard to tell if the suicidal stories are real, or all part of the Whitley show.