Spencer P Jones & Kim Salmon @ Old Bar
The odds of a Beasts Of Bourbon reunion – of any permutation or combination – are almost as long as the ALP laying the proverbial wet sloppy kiss on Kevin Rudd. While Rudd and the ALP have entered another phase of estrangement, to the delight of Beasts fans Spencer P Jones and Kim Salmon, the song writing spark behind the band’s original, and strongest material, had the grace and intelligence to reunite for a month of gigs at the Old Bar.
The first night of the residency was rough and ready. Spencer was fortified by liberal amounts of Dutch courage to overcome his omnipresent nerves; Kim was his usual expressive self, more disciplined in approach than his on-stage partner. The evening had ended with Spencer intoning Thanks over Salmon’s bullish grunge anthem We Had Love. Counter intuitively, the moment had worked like few others.
Subsequent outings refined the collaborative product, throwing into the mix such jewels as The Gun Club’s Jack on Fire and Kanye’s Runaway. Like oscillating waves operating on neighbouring frequencies, but with varying amplitude, the pair’s musical paths crossed regularly. A couple of old friends describing memories of varying definition: the resonance of mutual understanding and empathy came like a blinding flash of artistic brilliance.
The final Sunday night pairing was always going to be the stuff of legends. With Jones completing commitments the other side of town, Salmon ran through a set thick with classics, from The Scientists’ Happy Hour, to Antenna’s Come on Spring, to the Surrealists’ Fix Me Up, to Hank Williams’ Ramblin’ Man.
Jones’s set took off where his gig at the Retreat Hotel to celebrate national SLAM Day a few days earlier had left off. On that night Jones had squeezed ever last drop of rock’n’roll goodness from his repertoire of classics, bending and stretching everything in his weathered hand into new, and even more compelling form. A school of thought suggests tracks such as She Walks Between the Raindrops, or even Hospital, is the artistic direction to which latter-era Beasts should have directed their attention, rather than the caricatured nihilism of Gone and Little Animals.
A short break later, and Jones and Salmon were back on stage together. Like previous outings, the bracket was a mixture of originals and covers. Notional Salmon Beasts tracks such as Something to Lean On and Words From a Woman to Her Man are stripped back to their emotional heart; Jones’s Execution Days covers similar narrative territory, but with Jones’ distinctive sense of pathos. The covers traverse the musical spectrum, from the angst-ridden punk of The Stooges, Alex Chilton’s pristine power pop and Peggy Lee’s warm and sassy jazz. Jones and Salmon exchange bemused smiles with the familiarity of old friends freed from the clutches of ego. There’s a warmth in the air that you a slick social media campaign could never buy, and it’s all over – for now, at least. Someone get these guys back in the studio together, pronto.
BY PATRICK EMERY
LOVED:The mere concept of Alex Chilton, The Gun Club and The Stooges being played by Spencer Jones and Kim Salmon.
HATED: When the night ended.
DRANK: Cooper’s Pale Ale, what else?