Monday, November 16, 2009


Tuesday, October 23, 2007 
The Toff In Town

Tonight the Toff is packed with myopic couples from Northcote, no one is under 25 and the sense of excited reverence at the prospect of seeing an intimate performance by one of the icons of Australian indie is palpable. With the tables away and friends chattering, it's the perfect place for Angie Hart to reassert her reign as indie-pop princess over our hearts and minds.

First up the audience are regaled by Ice Cream Hand frontman Charles Jenkins, who has assembled a crack band of cowboys over which to stretch his country-tinged indie-rock tunes. With a nice line in understated, obtuse lyrics ("with my hair piled high / and my capsicum spray") and an easy-going demeanor, Jenkins, with his golden voice and 'stadium rock' sound mix, lets the music drive home the words. Entirely used to critics raving and few listening, he hopefully wins over some more shy, retiring types tonight. Making a quietly convincing point with each song, Rayon Factory, Open Road and one perhaps called Every Week I Put Your Pension in a Frame are all masterfully written and performed. That it seems Jenkins' has never listened to music after 1987 is no bad thing.

It has also been a long and curious road for Miss Hart, and tonight is a homecoming of sorts with mutual respect blooming from her face and our mouths and hands. Opening with Grounded Bird's opening track Asleep, she adopts the expression she maintains for most of the night: eyes closed, slightly inclining up to the microphone with her hands at her sides. The band (including Cam Butler on guitar and Patrick Bourke on bass), look like they're the last four people left in the library at closing time, and all play with admirable restraint, never letting Hart's voice leave front and centre. With her knee-high socks, patterned dress and great toothy grin, she looks all the world like you would hope her to look, and nothing like that Sarah Jessica-Parker-esque promo shot that has been floating around. "I'm so jazzed!" she squeaks, before setting off into Feel What You Don't. The centerpiece of the set - and album - Kiwi, and First Time are very effective in their use of dynamics (frankly any excuse for Butler being let loose with a guitar for a few minutes is a good thing), particularly the former, which offers the ever-appealing charm of Hart's face when reaching high notes. The subject matter is pretty hard to miss, My Year of Drinking and the less successful Sand ("I kissed a frog / Looking for God / Is that the craziest thing you've ever heard?") are both giveaways as to why we have this album and this gig now. Closing with Stop Buying Things ("After this, I'm going to get very drunk" she laughs), which is another tour de force of clipped verses and richly textured, higher-pitcher choruses, she encores with single Cold Heart Killer, and a old-time singalong of Bizarre Love Triangle. It's good to have her back and see her on such impressive form.

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