Glenn Richards Live At The Corner Hotel
The mystifying means by which music can consistently – and reliably – evaporate that oppressive cloud of loneliness is of eternal wonder. Every now and then, witnessing a band on one’s lonesome reiterates this notion. The Underminers are a perfect band to watch on such an occasion. It was to our benefit that the band performed two sets tonight on the smaller of The Corner’s two stages. Several tables were set up for their opening set, which evoked an intimate lounge room-like ambience. “And that was the sound of the pin dropping,” quipped singer Justin Hayward (frontman of local ‘90s icons, The Dead Salesmen).
Every soul in the room was captivated by Hayward’s stirring vocals. With his breathy, trembling intonation, Hayward’s vocals proved achingly beautiful and inherently comforting. Early highlights included the affecting piano-laden Slow Dancing and the yearning meditation of Nothing Guy. By The Underminers’ second set, the room was abuzz and evidently moved by the inspired and skilled Ballarat folk ensemble.
Led by their enigmatic lead vocalist/guitarist Karl Scullin, Kes Trio (who were, in fact, a four-piece tonight) were their usual confounding and idiosyncratic selves. Constantly baffling in their creative indulgences and instrumental dexterity, Kes thrilled those drawn to the more challenging exponents of experimental rock. Such listeners looked on admiringly, witnessing intently how each sonic journey would unfold and climax, and were resultantly mesmerised by its transporting force.
Although the recording sessions for Glenn Richards’ new album, Glimjack, had been quick and intuitive, Richards and his band of ridiculously talented compadres had only three days of rehearsals to learn all the new songs. As a result, there were delays between songs due to confusing guitar changes and equipment rearrangements. But the songs themselves suffered no such shortcomings. Richards was joined on stage by Dan Luscombe (The Drones, The Blackeyed Susans), Mike Noga (The Drones), Ben Bourke (Ned Collette & Wirewalker), his brother Chris (Dust), and new addition Steve Hesketh (former touring member of Jet; tour keyboardist for The Mess Hall).
Glimjack ’s rockier songs were unleashed early: the propulsive folk-rock gallop of Long Pigs opened the set, while Harsh Critic – which followed Apple Of My Eye – was an encroaching force with its sinister bass line and brooding rhythms. Self-professed as an ode to himself (and his unpredictable temperament on stage), Harsh Critic’s candid words were penetrating and accentuated by a deep baritone. The chugging reflection of Unflappable Man was a highlight and Torpor And Spleen was at its rollicking finest.
Richards and band returned for an encore following an elongated wait, which resulted in an amusing apology from the singer/songwriter. And what an excellent encore it was... The Love Zoo was the night’s grandest moment. Luscombe was magnificent on keys and as expressive as ever (his facial expressions are priceless), and Noga even slipped in an explosive drum solo. The Love Zoo was followed by the touching South Of Heaven, which Richards jokingly referred to as a Slayer cover (yes, Slayer have a song titled South Of Heaven, but this certainly wasn’t it).
During the occasional equipment/sound mishap, Richards and Luscombe constantly teased one another. When a Luscombe joke garnered resounding laughter, Richards exclaimed that the joke would’ve received the adverse response had it been articulated by himself. “It’s my hilarious shirt,” quipped Luscombe. “And your shit haircut,” Richards fired. His dark wit was exemplified in closing the night with They Hate Us – a song concerning the international perception of Australia/’The West’. The gospel-tinged harmonic folk anthem closed their show superbly. Tonight’s performance was raw, impassioned, a little edgy, and ultimately impressive. There’s no doubt that Richards’ next tour will be even better, after fans – as well as the band – have acquainted themselves intimately with these inspired new songs.