Live Review: Adalita, Laura Imbruglia, and Through The Forest Door – Annandale Hotel (06.08.2011)

The music that started without announcement or warning was a lovely way to ease into a night at the Annandale. Through The Forest Door started to play to a half-empty bar and didn’t stop until the end of his set. He didn’t say his name or the names of his songs once, so I had to look at the playing times on the bar to figure out who this random guy on stage was. His music fit perfectly in the background to the sound of people chatting and it was a treat to relax early in the night.

I wish I could say the same of Laura Imbruglia. She experienced some sound and feedback problems in the first couple of songs and it was incredibly hard to understand her lyrics clearly at the back of the bar. Even though her voice was loud compared to her guitar she sounded shrill in some songs, a shame, since we know from her album The Lighter Side Of… she has a strong and beautiful voice. When she covered Roger Miller’s song ‘My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died’, I felt like I’d stumbled into a hoedown and at any minute, people would be boot-scooting across the Annandale floor.

Adalita ambled on stage after guitarist J.P. Shilo had been teasing us with the intro to ‘Jewel Thief’ for a few minutes. She won everyone’s attention early by pounding on a drum with one hand and pointing at us with the other. I don’t think there was one person in the bar who looked away before the song finished.

Adalita’s voice was in fine form and it was such a relief after the problems Imbruglia had faced on stage. No note was lost in any part of the set and her voice was able to resonate over the vibration of the bass on the walls.

‘Full of Rope’ from Magic Dirt album Girl was the second song of the night and I think we were all a bit surprised to hear it. Adalita didn’t look as comfortable behind her guitar as usual and acted like she wasn’t sure how to move with it, a far cry from the Adalita I’ve seen live before. Whatever the issue, it didn’t take long to disappear and she went on to deliver a grinding version of ‘Invite Me’ to a nearly silent crowd.

A few of the songs on album Adalita are reminiscent of Magic Dirt, so much so, at the start of ‘Hot Air’ – the opening track on her album – my friend turned to me and said: “This is a Magic Dirt song, isn’t it?” It’s a comparison that is inevitable but harmless, since the songs on her album are of such high quality both recorded and live. ‘Going Down’ immediately reminds me of ‘Vulcanella’, with its heavy guitar riff and half sung, half spoken lyrics. But unlike ‘Vulcanella’ that sometimes lost its momentum live, ‘Going Down’ is rocking from start to finish and is the stand out song of the night.

“Thanks to everyone for coming out and supporting live music. Good on ya!” is her farewell and ‘The Repairer’ is the last song before the encore.
Adalita thanks us all again for coming out and the final song of the night is ‘Taxi Club’, a song co-written with Magic Dirt band mate Raul Sanchez.

Live Review: An Horse – Annandale Hotel (03.06.2011)

The Gold Coats tell us early they were devastated about leaving their actual gold coats at the Jetstar terminal in Brisbane, but manage to play a lively set to a gradually filling bar.

We’re told the drummer Nadia, who hasn’t played drums all that much, has bruises all over her legs from playing her tambourine too hard. Nadia manages to multi-task, playing drums with a drumstick in one hand and shaking a tambourine in the other. The catchiest song of the night is about mature age students, with lyrics: “I thought long, I thought hard. I went online, I re-enrolled,” and had everyone around me toe-tapping and singing along. Their cover of Paul Kelly’s ‘From St Kilda to Kings Cross’ brings a fresh sweetness to the song and its well-known lyrics. 

An Horse members Kate Cooper and Damon Cox arrive on stage to a nearly full bar, but feedback from one of the amps during set opener Trains and ‘Tracks’ from Walls puts them on the back foot early. The feedback was only noticeable in the first track, but for the rest of the set Cooper made a point of mentioning her disappointment with the sound.

“If you know the words to any of these songs, then sing to drown out the terrible sound of this amp,” she urged the crowd. And sing along they did, to ‘Little Lungs’ and ‘Company’ from 2009’s Rearrange Beds. Though the bad amp was spoken about after every few songs, its problems didn’t stop the crowd from enjoying the set. Cooper and Cox had fun on stage later in the set, joking about Cooper’s mum in the front row telling everyone she was her sister. Cox had to tell a fan: “I can’t afford to give you a drum stick, I’ve only got three left!”

Energetic and upbeat songs ‘Brain on Table’, ‘Walls’ and ‘Postcards’ were the standouts of an otherwise slower set, with Cooper and Cox getting the crowd to bounce along together. ‘Dressed So Sharply’ had the crowd singing “Dressed so sharply, you know I will read, every word you send me,” solo in the last chorus, spurring Cooper to ask everyone: “Could you feel it?” Cooper got a laugh and cheers from the crowd when she replied: “That’s what he said!”

Sweet ballad ‘Swallow the Sea’ ended the set and had the front row swaying along. Cooper had commented earlier in the night they really felt like a two-piece at this gig – something they’re not used to. They seemed relieved to finish up and leave The Annandale and the inferior amps behind. 

The new album Walls is filled with heartfelt lyrics and bouncy riffs. An Horse delivered new and old songs to a happy crowd with a lot of love. It’s just a shame they didn’t seem to have as much fun playing them as we did hearing them. 

Live Review: The Waifs – Enmore Theatre (02.26.2011)

The Waifs arrive on stage excited, and clearly happy to be back in Sydney, as they remind us throughout the show. Their new album Temptation will be released on 4th March, and tonight the set-list is heavy with new songs.
The funky guitar and harmonica solos are still there, as has become their trademark over the years, and each song they sing has a long history behind it. It’s a shame these songs are not well known yet, and often leave the crowd distracted, talking amongst themselves.

It’s not until ‘Lighthouse’ from 2003 album Up All Night that the crowd show any sign of life, and start to sing along, louder than singer Vikki Thorn in some parts. There are cheers during the harmonica solo, and her sister Donna Simpson jokes: “Everyone loves a pregnant woman on the harmonica!”

The Waifs have always been storytellers. Their songs are an insight into their relationships, their fears, travels and their history. Donna stops during London Still to reminisce of her time living in Bondi Beach, and excitedly points out her friends in the crowd. She says: “Even my old boss from the Mexican Restaurant is here!”

New song ‘Falling’ is introduced as the first happy love song Donna has written, and wins the crowd over with the light melody and pretty lyrics.
Other new songs ‘Beautiful Night’ and ‘Goodbye Darlin’ get a good reception, but it’s clear the crowd are hanging out for the older, better known songs.
‘Highway One’ is met with cheers and claps during another long harmonica solo and the two girls behind me start to hug and sway. ‘Gillian’ has everyone singing “Gillian if you weren’t my mother I would make you my wife,” a line that still makes me stop to think when I hear it.

Vikki introduces the song ‘Bridal Train’, and while most are familiar of the story behind it, there is another important lesson to be learnt. It seems the lyrics published in the EP were wrong and Vikki needs to set it straight. The words are not “leapt aboard the bridal train,” as published, but “wept aboard the bridal train.”

Donna starts to tell a story about her son, but is interrupted by shouts for “Crazy Train!” The song that has been their signature for many years was missed tonight. Amidst a set-list heavy with new songs, it would have been a welcome classic to sing and clap along to. The Waifs have fallen off the ‘Crazy Train’, and it is a notable absence.

Donna and Josh Cunningham finish together with a quietly beautiful version of ‘Rescue’, leaving behind a subdued crowd.

Temptationwill not be released until Friday, meaning many of the songs played tonight had not been heard before. With the experience and strength The Waifs have, I’m sure the songs from this album will eventually draw as much enthusiasm as favourites ‘Gillian’ and ‘London Still’.