|It’s cold. So, what better way to combat the onset of weather that would cripple a penguin than by going to see Australia’s finest musical export, the Dirty Three? I’m not massively up on Oz bands of the moment, obviously, so no doubt some of you out there bothering to read this may take issue with my opinion of the ‘Three. But so be it – inform me, then. Previous to this evening my experience of music from the dingo kennel was of the following;|
2) The Minogue-bot cloning facility
3) Midnight Oil
4) Rolf Harris
But could tonight even begin to compare with Monday’s meltdown? As Gilbert and I froze our way to Nottingham it seemed unlikely. However, G had seen the band before and made a good fist of selling them to me. I was to expect violins, drumming, quiet guitar and highly accurate, powerful spitting. Which I got, but thankfully there was much more.
To the front we went, our regular gig-trio being augmented by the amiable young Master David for the first time (who proved it’s not just me who has a chip about the Charlotte). We could see drums. We could see a violin. We could see a guitar. And we could see amps capable of causing some damage – after going to see the Wedding Present earlier this year, I shall never again underestimate those small, cubey Boogies (there was one in front of us, sitting innocuously next to a fat old Twin).
|Onto the stage and onto a stool appeared a tall, rangy cowboy sporting a (nearly) full Billy Gibbons. This was one Josh Pearson, of the parish of Texas. “I’m not responsible for George Bush,” he quietly drawled, “But if you don’t hold him against me then I won’t hold Tony Blair against you”. Political lines drawn, it was into a song about ‘redemption’. Things sounded great but we had to take his word for the song’s subject matter – plugging your acoustic into a Twin is brave enough, but when it’s going through a RAT and an octave pedal then all hell is at your fingertips the whole time. Consequently we heard not a lyric. Then he broke a string (the low E, as you ask – not seen that done before) and told a few jokes to fill in whilst replacing it. Most were about drummers, which had the Illusionator laugh knowingly. Unfortunately I now only remember his paedophile joke, which was “A man says to a paedophile on a beach ‘Hey, you – get out of my sun’. “ [cough] I don’t think Josh did that many tunes, but what he did do sounded good despite the guitar overshadowing his voice most of the time. It was a roared-up, twisted take on Country, with the man himself not only pounding seven shades out of his guitar when he got going but also treating the stage to a good heel-kicking from his cowboy boots – which could be heard above everything. His final song ended with a softly-sung chorus from Love Will Tear Us Apart – part of me thinks this sounded great but another cringed slightly. Anyway, no arguments about the chap – an excellent start to the evening.|
As the Dirty Three arrived on stage I turned around to see the Rescue Rooms pretty much full. I was soon to see why. Beginning with a short quiz (to which the answer was ‘Gustav Klimt’), the band tore into tunes which by turns frightened, inspired, lulled and mind-melted. Any concerns about this being an anti-climax after the mighty ‘Banana were soon cast aside – here we had energy, skill and imagination of an entirely different sort. And much the better we felt for it. Main man Warren Ellis looked and behaved like an Antipodean offshoot of the Zappa family tree as he spent most of the gig playing with his back to the audience. His violin was, for the most part, treated like a guitar in manner of which Hendrix would be proud – producing the most tone-perfect rasps, wails and grinds I’ve heard this side of …well, anybody else currently abusing strings at the moment. A mandolin was also thrown around a bit but it was the violin which really ripped the roof off.
Looking like a bored extra from Phoenix Nights, drummer Jim White was amazing to watch (and , indeed, hear). It looked like he was not so much playing the drums as letting the drums play him, or perhaps guiding the drums in the manner of a nuclear power station technician guiding plutonium rods. Various items of percussion were strewn around the kit, as were several (home-made, according to Gilb) beaters, sticks and other wooden weaponry. The bass drum was thunderous in my chest – yet he barely seemed to be tapping it. I could not for the life of me work out where the sound was coming from – it was miked but to where I know not. I refuse to believe we were receiving the actual sound of the drum itself – maybe we were getting something from the monitors…
As Gilb stated before the gig, the guitar was quite muted in comparison, adding a soft wash to the leaping-mental proceedings elsewhere. I would say this to Mick Turner, though – ditch the Gretsch and use the Tele more! But then I would say that.
Mr. Pearson joined the band for a couple of songs about halfway through, adding mandolin for one and strapping on a BC Rich madbass for the other. Truly superb stuff and I have a live album to look forward to when my ears have recovered.