Saturday, October 24, 2009


Monday, September 03, 2007 
The Espy

A proliferation of newspaper hats (and the occasional toffee apple) borne by excited and intoxicated Espy-goers gives away the fervent loyalty which Peter Combe can ignite in people; making for a truly odd and uplifting sight. It is no exaggeration to say this must be one of the biggest outpourings of quarter-life nostalgia that this city has ever seen; everyone is between 20 and 30. How much of that is a longing for relative pre-9/11 and pre-adolescent innocence and how much for the appeal of an inane singalong is hard to say at first, but as the night progresses it becomes clear that Combe has the songs, has the hooks and the sheer effortless charisma that leaves no mouth unturned, and any idea of sociological analysis laughed away.

First up, the sold out Gershwin Room is treated to an electrified and band-backed Bedroom Philosopher. Pulling out his most well-known songs Golden Gaytime, Megan The Vegan and of course, the JJJ hit I'm So Postmodern in a mid-set acoustic mode, he capitalises on the intense positivity in the room, and gets big cheers for his brief aside about a potential Oasis/Blur-style showdown between Peter Combe and The Wiggles; "Ah come on, everyone knows he's got the songs!". The band up the frivolity factor on songs like Folkstar and the Combe-referencing Generation ABC which noisys-up the excitable crowd, though it's clear who people are here to see.

The roar is deafening as Combe and his keyboard-playing sidekick the hilariously grumpy Phil Cunneen take to the stage; the front few rows especially act as if there could be no greater thrill than seeing a man in his early 50s launch into a totally note perfect rendition of Jack And The Beanstalk. It is uncanny how little Combe has changed since he was all over ABC of an afternoon; "Well, you all look a lot bigger than when I last saw you!" he jokes. The sheer unaffected charm of Combe and his complete joy in playing is infectious. From cyclical singalong lyrics like Rain's "The rain keeps tumbling down / And it's such a wonderful sound," (prompting Combe to, perhaps rather generously, say "you lot sound like the Melbourne Tabernacle Choir") to the seemingly ceaseless repetition of "You left your bag dad, in Baghdad," we're with him all the way. He's been playing this game for a long time and it shows. Toffee Apple, Saturday Night, Chish And Fips and Yellow Banana prompt the front half of the crowd into raptures and the other half into smiling nods and the odd call of "Do you know this one?" from one punter to another. Once he hits the closing sequence of Happy As Larry, Newspaper Mama, Spaghetti Bolognaise, Wash Your Face In Orange Juice and Tell Me The Ti-i-me Please the sheer passion and volume of the crowd is close to unbelievable, and even those who don't know the words are reduced to idiot grins and wild cheering. It seems nearly impossible that this man gently strumming his acoustic guitar and another playing the sounds you'd never think to use on a keyboard can prompt this response. Hilarious, in fact, that in treating us like kids, we respond like kids. When the screaming, stamping crowd brings him back out for a second encore (Juicy, Juicy Green Grass) it's a miracle he's allowed to leave the stage (as occurred at his Corner show in May). Whatever it is Peter Combe has stumbled into here, it's working and seems only to be growing.

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