Monday, February 19, 2007
Don't Tell Tom
Still seeming fresh compared to the other stalwart venues this city has to offer, the high-ceilings, long bar, low light and stage that has likely seen more bingo callers than microphone maulers, gives Don't Tell Tom a sense of "behave". This keeps a energetic and physical distance between the stage and audience which works against the performers tonight and you feel they're likely to do their best gigs elsewhere, despite both relating warmly to the audience.
First up, Rosie Burgess gives us a breezy, Byron-esque set of songs inspired by roadkill-guilt, maintaining focus in a digital age, kinesthetic power and environmental awareness. Like a burst of road-trip freedom, Burgess underpins her paeans to self and global awareness with a firmly stomped stompbox and exudes a winning confidence despite her rudimentary playing and basic slide guitar skills which hint at her tender years before the mic. She keeps the audience in her palm, especially during Too Young and the delicate ballad Beauty Queen both revealing an appealing personal side all indicating a bright future. "Peace out!" and she's gone.
Moments later Berlin-based Sydneysider Kat Frankie quietly takes to the stage. From the moment she blends tuning her guitar with the beginning of her first song, a spell is cast. Each song seems to be a little journey and is ended by a collective sigh from the audience. Second track, Everything Everything is magic, as is Fate from her forthcoming album Pocketknife. From there she loosens up enough to bestow us with a smile, which is good as the long sequence of vicarious-breakup songs that follow need her wry banter between them to stop them becoming lost on a plateau of angst. Tellingly, these are older songs and it's her newer ones that impress most. Her stage presence is undeniable; a swan-like neck, almost permanently closed eyes, strong jaw framed by a slicked-back Elvis-quiff and skinny-limbed writhing contortions give a stark picture of assured selflessness. From emotionally-heightened Etheridge-bellows to sweet Bic Runga-whispers - often in the same song, Frankie is unflinching in her delivery and lyrics - all fleeting images and conversations - "you carry your secrets like a pocketknife that might just bring us undone," she warns. The Fainthearted Ones, her whispered eulogy to a personal Berlin written for the forthcoming Uli M. Schuppel documentary "BerlinSong" in which she features, is gorgeous in it's frailty, indicating she'll be a striking screen presence. As a counterpoint in feel, though not subject matter, her final breakup song Happy is a glorious piece of pop music you could see turned into a smash hit in the hands of someone better known. As it is, it stands out, proving her versatility as a songstress, and reminding you that when she returns later this year, you'd be a fool to miss Kat Frankie.