Gareth Liddiard Gave A Captivating Acoustic Performance At the NGV

It seems like the perfect setting for Gareth Liddiard to perform among the artworks of Vincent Van Gogh. Both iconic artists in their own right, each assaulting the senses through their immeasurable talent. Liddiard’s capability to enchant an audience and paint a detailed picture with nothing but his voice, his words and an acoustic guitar is akin to Van Gogh’s ability to mesmerise through his erratic strokes of the paintbrush which form artworks even more beautiful than the scenes they depict.
Liddiard sat on a stool centre stage as images of the Van Gogh And The Seasons series cascaded on screens behind him and the NGV Great Hall’s expansive leadlight ceiling twinkled overhead. He was greeted enthusiastically and began his set with Blondin Makes An Omelette, whose first line declares “It seems we’re all in for a treat,” and boy, was he right.
He followed up with Oh My, plucking away at the strings of his acoustic guitar to create a wistful melody that allowed the poetic lyrics to speak for themselves. Between each song Liddiard chatted to the audience, divulging cheeky remarks and anecdotes that had the crowd chuckling, cheering and basking in his charisma.
“Van Gogh was a freak, he was a massive arsehole and he stank,” said Liddiard. “If the modern day Van Gogh walked into this building right now, you’d all call the cops.”
He continued with a breathtaking rendition of Strange Tourists, that begged the question of how anyone could possibly have the mental capacity to retain that many lyrics, let alone sing each long-winded sentence without getting tongue-tied or running out of breath. Nevertheless, he delivered the storytelling lyrics delicately and in a soothing rhythm before persisting with Highplains Mailman, Sixteen Straws, which had Liddiard’s intensely emotional voice breaking in parts, and Did She Scare All Your Friends Away.
“I’m gonna sing a Lou Reed song, ‘cause he’s dead,” announced Liddiard, before delivering a smouldering, stripped back rendition of Reed’s Oh, Jim, his throaty vocals dripping with passion. Liddiard, much to the crowd’s excitement, then played Shark Fin Blues before being given a time warning and exclaiming “I’ve been talking too much,” wrapping up with Taman Shud.
Gareth Liddiard holds the rare magic of being able to make you feel like you are the only person in a room of hundreds of people, a quality which was only amplified by the intimate nature of his acoustic set. Among all the bodies of strangers, Liddiard made you forget they were all there, making 90 minutes feel like mere moments.
Words by Kate Streader
Image by Lee Easton
Highlight: The intensity and sheer passion behind his voice, especially evident in Oh, Jim and Taman Shud.
Lowlight: It felt a tease for Liddiard to release a Vincent Van Gogh cover in the lead up to this gig and not play it live.
Crowd Favourite: Sharkfin Blues.