Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Live Review: Dan Kelly and Gareth Liddiard, ANU Bar, Canberra, 23/03/2011

Arriving at the ANU, I am surprised to find a dozen plastic cafe tables arranged around the front of the stage. It soon becomes obvious that the bar staff are not running late in converting the room from student eatery to gig venue but that tonight is to be an intimate, sit-down show.

The last of the tables fill up as Dan Kelly arrives on stage starting his wonderful set with I Will Release Myself (Unto You) a song that with its self deprecating lines (The Lord did not give me, the skills to aim high/I'm not like Delta Goodrem born to try, I'm an uncomplicated guy... Uh, I'm struggling hard to spell my name, and honey you're such a brain) and loveable characters is the near perfect example of a Dan Kelly song.

Playing solo gives Kelly time to talk with the audience, he explains where each of his songs came from and what they are about. Proving he has no lack of imagination, these chats cover controlling hordes of ice addicts with classical music, wooing a lesbian couple to be his polygamist wife(s) and running away to an undersea post-apocalypse world lorded over by Bindi Irwin.

It is not all silliness. Drunk on Election Night came from frustration with our politicians and is tonight dedicated to Tony Abbott. The intent of this tribute is not lost on this audience as we all heartily sing the song's Cock-suck'n, Mother-fuck'n chorus.

The set finishes with Dan Kelly's Dream, a thick cloud of smoke machine fog settling above a classic rock guitar solo and the sound of chickens. This trip into Dan Kelly's mind has been weird but thoroughly enjoyable.

The bar queue has barely moved when Gareth Liddiard comes on stage. Tonight the Drones front man is playing songs from his recently released solo album Strange Tourist.

Like Kelly before him, Liddiard spends a lot time explaining the motivations and meaning behind his songs. Opener Blondin Makes an Omelette is inspired by the famed Niagara Falls tight-rope walker while Strange Tourist is a depressing tale that takes the listener to popular Japanese suicide spot the Aokigahara forest.

The serious subject material and stripped back song delivery makes much of Liddiard's set an intense experience. It is only during the faster, fuller Drones songs Shark Fin Blues and I Don't Ever Want To Change that we get a chance to tap our feet and relax.

The set ends with The Radicalisation of D a near spoken word story commenting on western society and how an ordinary middle class boy 'D' (David Hicks?) was driven to become the home grown terrorist. The last lines of the 30 minute epic: But now we interrupt this broadcast/To bring you breaking news/There is a building in Manhattan/And it's burning.


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