As far as ambience goes, the East Brunswick Club isn’t the most glorious of venues. The band room feels a bit like the run-down community centre all you country kids may have seen a Freeza gig at when you were a teenager, and the bar looks a bit like a kiosk at a basketball stadium, or a football field, or something to that effect. With the impressive array of bands they have playing there, and the great sound they produce, you can hardly complain though. The act of the night on Thursday was front man of The Drones, and recent solo artist Gareth Liddiard, perhaps one of the most brilliant Australian singer/songwriters of our generation.
Supporting was fellow singer/songwriter/guitarist Dan Kelly, who put on a very witty and endearing set. Kelly’s in between banter was almost the highlight of his set, although that wasn’t to detract from his quirky and sharp tunes. The audience seemed to have a blast singing along to ‘Bindi Irwin Apocalypse Jam’, which, Dan told us, had been given the stamp of approval by Bindi Irwin herself, although mother Terri thought that it was ‘weird’.
Gareth took the stage looking as sharp as ever. He immediately burst into a two hour set, including songs from The Drones’ vast discography, as well as his own solo work. Liddiard is one of those rare artists who you can see live dozens of times, and rather than getting boring, he just seems to get better and better. It has perhaps got something to do with the complex lyrics and meaning behind his songs—every time you hear it your understanding broadens a bit, though you can never seem to reach the apex of understanding.
After Kelly’s smooth falsetto voice and fun-loving tunes, Liddiard’s harsh timbre came as a bit of a shock to the eardrums, and juxtaposed the previous set perfectly. Although Gareth seems to be amusing and laidback in his banter between songs, there is nothing amusing or laidback about the songs themselves; he has an intensity that is unparalleled in any other artist today, and a strength in his lyrics, all of which tell a story worth listening to; avoiding any clichés entirely.
It’s hard to pick out highlights when each song is brilliant and absolutely incomparable to the song preceding it. A song that is always a pleasure to hear live, both when played by The Drones and by Liddiard solo though, is ‘Jezebel’. Although when played solo, with just an acoustic guitar replacing the full band; the song loses none of its intensity whatsoever. The audience all looked on in awe as Liddiard choked through the chorus with pain in his eyes.
Another highlight of the night, indeed of his solo album Strange Tourist, was ‘The Radicalisation of D”. This song is one that’s hard to swallow the first couple of times you hear it, being just over sixteen minutes long and almost entirely relying on its lyrics for its overwhelming strength. Once you get past the minimalist styling of the song and just listen to the lyrics, there is no questioning Liddiard’s genius. This tour de force of a song isn’t something you can move to, but there’s no doubt that a state of being mesmerized was ubiquitous in the room as Gareth told us the story of D.
The two-hour set flew by and it was disappointing when it came to its denouement. While it’s true that Gareth isn’t the best guitarist, or the best singer in the land, this man is one of the most brilliant modern day poets you will come across. To juxtapose the Led Zeppelin expression, it’s the song, not the singer. The amount of empathy and emotion that goes into his songs is absolutely ineffable and is something you just have to see live to understand. Looking around the audience at his gigs, it’s easy to pick out faces that you have seen at his previous shows, probably because once you’ve seen him one time, you just have to go see him again… and again… and again.