Ned Collette + Wirewalker @ Northcote Social Club
On a wintry night typical of the European city he has occupied for two years, Melbourne's prodigal son returned for a rare show at The Northcote Social Club to propel new album 2 into the world. Mary Orcher was a challenging opener – a fascinating and confronting acquaintance of Collette from Berlin who added beautifully to the general awkwardness of arriving at a venue early. Any preconceived notions of what a gig should be like were discarded as her bizarre performance and unique fashion sense were unleased on the band room, leaving only space for side-eyes and nervous giggles. Intriguing.
With Collette and Wirewalker's album having received favourable reviews in the lead up to this show, it's no surprise that the dimly-lit hometown hub of the NSC was at capacity, buzzing with a gentle chatter that expanded and contracted but never completely let up as the evening progressed.
With the layers and depth present in 2, the main point of interest was how this would retain its clarity in a live setting. With writing and recording duties taking place between sister cities Melbourne and Berlin, the European environment certainly shows its mark. Like Berlin itself, 2 is a juxtaposition of traditional and avant-garde, part flamenco, part electro, overlayed with Collette's finest and at times least accessible asset – his skeletal, stern voice.
Tonight, donned in a linen white suit, Ned Collette and his fondly-caressed Spanish guitar provided the backbone to the pulse of Wirewalker's percussion – a frenzy of drums, drum machines, bass guitar and synth which kept the whole thing animated. Starting with IL Futuro Fantastico, the talented band reeled off most tracks from 2, rarely straying from the album's playing order.
The first few tracks unfolded in an almost unconscious way, with each competing sound seeming to drag you one way before a tribal beat or guitar lick would intercept and pull you elsewhere. Despite the chaotic composition of many of the songs, their stage presence was calm and almost technical, remarkably focused and always colouring between the lines.
It was the songs sans drums that shone, allowing the carefully-crafted tracks to rest delicately in the air, with the beautiful vocal harmonising of Biddy Connor and Laura Jean adding to the heady mix of down-tempo tracks like How To Change A City and The Hedonist. This cold winter night suited the uneasy, brooding harmonies that Collette weaved his way through in a practiced manner.
The soaring chorus of Long You Lie best connected with the audience, sounding every inch the Australian classic of yesteryear. A tidal wave of an encore, and the first time Collette connected with an electric guitar, was enthusiastic yet not entirely enveloping. I'm not sure if it was a slight lack of engagement or a general Saturday night vibe and late evening start time, but the entire night was underscored by the crowd's chatter, which dulled the sonic landscape a little.
This gig was a pleasure to behold, but without the staying power to reminisce. That said, Melbourne and Berlin seem to share a particular common thread. Sisters, not twins. Collette's sound straddles the two more so than any other artist. I can't wait to see what comes next.
BY TARYN STENVEI
LOVED: The glaring talent.
HATED: That Collette bagged out Celine Dion, despite wearing her 1999 Academy Award suit backwards.
DRANK: Big ol' beers.