Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Victoria Beckham recently trotted out the cliched (and therefore true) phrase: "style never goes out of fashion". Were she watching Mick Harvey's sold out show at The Speigeltent last Monday evening in the swaddling heat and amongst rapt devotees, few would have disagreed. Another adage he proved true might be: "Good things come to those who wait", though that would be no news to fans who've waited until last year's aptly named One Man's Treasure for a true solo album. This was the perfect venue for the perfect gentleman of Australian rock to bring that album to life. No stranger to 4-star album reviews, a small but dedicated fanbase and with a limited interest in troubling the mainstream, Harvey distilled all that is great about his output and personality and turned it into a languid yet concise 70-minute show.
Harvey is accompanied by energetic double-bassist Rosie Westbrook, pianist and co-singer Julltha Ryan and long-term musical companions James Johnson, who provided the perfectly complimentary guitar and organ, and wonderfully restrained drummer Thomas Wydler. Wydler's drumming style encapsulated the evening; he illustrates the drama of the narratives and pulsing heart of the songs, but uses brushes not sticks - muting the expression, keeping it tight. It's the fact that Harvey keeps things unpretentiously acoustic and largely restrained that makes his quietly insistent voice and the lead-light and mirrors of the venue so suited to the rich stock of songs he has gathered. Every note and rhythmic accentuation adds to the impact of the songs; a deft guitar swell here, a subtle drum roll there, warm double-bass bowing and Harvey's calm and confident baritone riding each smooth and dark wave to safe harbour. Even his effects pedal has it's own red velvet-draped table.
Opening with Come Into My Sleep, Harvey and band instantly cast a spell that not even the sticky heat and reflected broad daylight can break. Hank Williams Says It Best continues the theme of country-confessional authorship that could surely bag him a Golden Guitar were he to pursue that route. That he doesn't seem to pursue anything except honing his craft is one of his key traits that comes across in this calm and confident performance. Dave McComb's rarely heard Everything Is Fixed is an unexpectedly affecting revelation in Harvey's hands, Will You Surrender?, Come On Spring, Louise and First St. Blues are all highlights, as is the change of pace and eerily textured (almost Scott Walker-like) Bethelridge. After a rockstar-like reaction far louder than anything he performed for the set-closing lullaby A Little Bit Of Rain, comes the warmly anticipated Serge Gainsborough encore in which Pink Elephants and Bonnie And Clyde are performed so as to expel their previous incarnations from the memory. Harvey's verse of Pink Elephants in French iced his cake of effortless class. From the sculpted jet black hair of the 20-something Birthday Party fans to the attentive elderly women gently fanning themselves, Mick Harvey's taken a while to come out alone, and judging by the reaction tonight, they'd all agree, it's been worth the wait.