Pics by Andrew Bibby
This had everything.
There’s something about Orville Peck that calls to mind comparisons to strange, unknown angels. Indeed, his debut album Pony galloped into 2019, riding right into the hearts of fans the world over. A masked singer with charisma and a knack for penning songs that are eerie and piercing at once, Peck announced himself to the world: the cowboy musician dreams are made of. With his first tour of Australia, those vivid dreams blended into reality.
Each show of this Australian tour sold out with what felt like the click of the fingers. Tonight, The Corner, where the show was relocated from Howler due to sheer demand, was filled wall to wall with devotees, eager and awe-filled. Backlit by gentle red lights, Peck opened the set with an especially haunting rendition of ‘Big Sky’.
Immediately, he grasped the room with a booming voice even more spectacularly commanding live than one could have imagined – the kind that reaches from a stage, rattling and reverberating until it reaches a soul. It isn’t until the end of the song that the room got a proper look at the masked cowboy on stage. His presence is glorious and captivating and his sky blue suit, adorned with sequins in formations of florals and flames, clouds and cactus, is perfection.
The gold fringing of Peck’s mask glistened spectacularly beneath the stage lights as he swung into ‘Winds Change’. The trio of ‘Queen of the Rodeo’, ‘Roses Are Falling’ and ‘Kansas (Remembers Me Now)’ is hot, emotional and mesmerising in a particularly cinematic manner. Peck creates worlds in his songs and performances and to be invited inside is a wonderful privilege.
Covering two classic country duets, George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s ‘Something To Brag About’ and Gram Parsons’ ‘Ooh Las Vegas’, showcased the ridiculous talent of the person Peck describes as his right-hand woman, the incredible multi-instrumentalist Brea Salvede. Their voices play off one another in such a natural and affectionate manner that seems to only happen when two people truly fit together as performers and as friends.
‘Nothing Fades Like The Light’ closes Pony and tonight, it appeared at the tail end of the set, poetic and powerful. An especially affecting rendition, it is followed soon by ‘Dead of Night’, a swaying singalong enrobed by the echo of Peck’s guitar. Closing out the main set with a friendly contest between bandmates (seeing who can whistle the longest) throughout ‘Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call)’, Peck is as playful, cheeky and charming as his voice would suggest. With echoes of “yeehaws” and deep, rolling bass dives, this is a rumbling, revelatory exit. As Peck finishes out the song, he slinks from the stage having spoken of solidarity in an almost tongue in cheek fashion. But one can’t help but read into the words a little.
This performance and indeed Peck’s bright, rising star delves into darkness, strangeness, togetherness, beauty, queerness and romance in an all-encompassing, enveloping way. This is the power of Orville Peck: he commands a room with natural ease, he speaks with affection for the people he is performing with and he moves seamlessly from wrenching ballad with swaying audiences to raucous breakdowns that set the room alight with movement.
For just over an hour, Peck and his wickedly talented band have blessed this stage and the souls looking up at it with a show that is nothing short of brilliant in all senses of the word. With one final “yeehaw” (which is echoed back by the crowd), it’s over. We’ll miss you Orville Peck.
Highlight: Orville Peck saying he was moving to Australia to work at a koala sanctuary.
Lowlight: That there was only one Melbourne show.
Crowd favourite: A fan being invited up on stage for a hug and a selfie.