Mike Noga, Tobias Cummings and The Bulls
Harrison Ford will always be Indiana Jones, Bruce Willis; John McClane. To some, Mike Noga is The Drones' drummer, yet for those who witness him launch his second album, The Balladeer Hunter, he's simply a tremendous songwriter and engaging performer.
The Bulls open the Toff's dimly-lit room in style; the duo vigorous with an acoustic guitar and tambourine. Linda Bull's voice wails with enormous strength, her stance defiant. Mess with The Bulls, you'll get the horns.
Tobias Cummings continues the evening eloquently. He takes The Sweetest Poetry and Exegesis from 2010's The Trophy, finger-picking and clawing at his fretboard, and sparking attention with his rendition of Kanye West's Runaway.
Launching into Rothko and The Cold Year, Noga demonstrates how textured his sound has become. Accompanied by Jane Hendry (violin) and Stevie Hesketh (keys), Noga and his regular companions in Pat Bourke (bass) and Gus Agars (drums) present a full sound that instantly wins the audience.
Though the vocal sentiment often depicts a desperate or deflated past there are many uplifting tones in the instrumentation and this is where the keys and violin become a vital addition to Noga's well-balanced use of vocals and harmonica and Bourke's rising bass lines.
Noga is a musician who cares about his craft, career and 'customers'. Tonight is a show, not just a gig. The band, in all their slim-fit glory, present past gems Turn Your Light On and Time To Begin as they work like a rotating bench to ensure each track is as refreshing as possible. Ballad Of An Ordinary Man accentuates Noga's throaty vocal and the indisputable sincerity of his songwriting. Piss On A Butterfly lifts the tempo while first single, M'Belle, feels like walking a rocky path with cut feet and shackles; Agars' percussion adding to the imagery.
Audiences warm to Mike Noga's authenticity, gratitude and spirit. The humorous side of All My Friends (Are Alcoholics) isn't lost on the crowd, the 'brown, grey and gold' shades provide a saloon-like atmosphere before A Long Week receives raucous applause. The vindication of Walk With Me and the tender I Will Have Nothing rounding out the occasion beautifully. Versatility and variety a key to tonight's show and The Balladeer Hunter.
'Solo' efforts are nothing new to Melbourne's music scene, they're enriching the already wonderful tapestry of sounds in our town and increasing the overall strength of our bands.
Loved: The standard on Melbourne's musicians.
Hated: The stiletto-wearing percussionist in the front row. Feet tapping not required during ballads!
Drank: An espresso martini to safely get me through to the early hours.