On a wet and miserable December night (where else but Melbourne), what better way to warm up than with the great pairing of Let The Cat Out and the legendary d.i.g? The well attended and warmly responsive crowd assembled at The Corner would definitely have agreed.

First up were Sydney five piece Let The Cat Out. Fronted by the charming Jane Mc Arthur, the band proceed to impress in a highly enjoyable half hour set. Fusing rock and soul with more traditional jazz elements, the band played some great tracks off their 2008 album Get It Like That like “Started Something” and “Deep”. All of the players in this band are excellent musicians and really created a tight and together sound this evening. Not really known in Melbourne, they are definitely a band worth checking out, especially for their fat, old school organ sound that really sets them apart from their peers.

d.i.g. Directions In Groove. Formed in Sydney in the early 1990s, they are one of the most interesting bands to emerge on the Australian musical landscape in the early nineties. The jazz fusion band released four albums in that decade before calling it quits. Having reformed in 2008, the band have vowed not to be a bland and boring cover version band of their old material. Clearlight was released a few months ago, the band’s first studio album in over a decade. Tonight was proof positive that d.i.g. have lost none of their charm or sense of musical spirit and adventure over that time.

It really is impossible to pigeonhole and totally identify their sound. What makes them so special is that, while one can hear elements of jazz, soul, rock and many other things, they really do live up to their band name and take music in tangents and directions that, as a listener, you don’t expect or are completely able to predict. This is what makes them so compelling.

Opening with a radically reworked version of “Pythonicity” from the latest album, from the moment this band set foot on stage, one thing was clear. Here was a five men, plus sensational female vocalist Laura Stitt, that had very much rediscovered a love of making music together. The smiles and interplay between them was lovely to watch, as was the receptive and adoring crowd.

The new material from Clearlight sounded exceptional when played live. The set leaned heavily on the album, much to the crowd’s delight. New vocalist Laura Stitt really shone as a vocalist on the compelling “Blind”, showing a great use of her upper vocal register. What is so interesting and wonderful to listen to with d.i.g, especially in a live setting, is how great musicians combine to create something truly unique and different on a musical plane to everything else out there. This is what, as people who listen to live music and see bands, we are continually searching for and it is incredibly gratifying for music to take you somewhere you haven’t been before.

The absolute highlight this evening was an utterly storming version of “Sunnyside”, off “Clearlight”. Imagine the members of Portishead having a big night at a drum and bass club and translating that into music. This absolutely thumping track would have been the result. It was a joy to listen to how the band stretched and expanded upon the track’s recorded counterpart. This is part of the genius of this band. Laura Stitt has definitely brought an exciting and new sense of colour in a musical sense to d.i.g’s already wide and varied palette.

Older fans were not left wanting, with great versions of “Dreamtime” and “Heal Yourself” included in tonight’s set list. To the band’s credit, they really expanded and broadened the scale and sound of “Heal Yourself”, which had always sounded like the most dated track that d.i.g. had recorded, it’s early nineties roots showing quite badly at times in its recorded form.

The night finished up with a really good mix of the old and the new. “Blind” was greeted with great delight from the crowd, who really seem to have embraced the new material from the band. The final song performed this evening was a sensational, foot to the floor, all stops out version of “The Favourite”, which sent the assembled crowd home wearing big smiles.

This was an excellent night and a great reminder or introduction for some to one of the most original and innovative bands this country has had the pleasure of producing.

– Neil Evans