The Toff in Town is the perfect autumn or winter venue. Nestled on the 2nd floor of Melbourne’s historical Curtain House (for those not from Melbourne) it is a building that offers a collection of bars, restaurants, book stores, fashion stores, creative offices and one of the most legendary roof top bars in Australia. Tonight, it is the perfect setting for a good dollop of folk from the delicately fantastic Tinpan Orange and one time drummer for Eagle and The Worm (also Courtney Barnett’s band) Jim Lawrie.
Knowing full well that tonight’s gig was a sell-out, we made the calculated decision to get to The Toff In Town when doors opened at 730. The plan, to get a table to the side where we could lean against the overly stuffed upholstered walls that, along with the music we heard, formed the comfort factor for tonight’s toasty evening.
In front of a row of wooden chairs lined up like we were about to watch an amateur puppet show, Jim Lawrie took to the stage as a crowd quickly swelled. Clearly a known artist in his own right, be it previous career or his current. On the back of his second album Eons, Lawrie comforted a very attentive audience. Lawrie, on record, offers a full sound, a laid back country-folk feel with enough production to create some really memorable tracks. Tonight, playing solo, it feels incomplete. Production is key to his music and it’s captivity. Lyrically, he writes introspectively and for many of us who know little about the artist, it felt like we just couldn’t connect, many toward the back lost interest and spoke of their weekends. We did the polite thing and asked them to “have a bit of respective”. A real shame we didn’t get to see Lawrie play with his band, a great songwriter that suffered without the full experience.
At this point the audience was respectively lined up, stage-faced and clearly eager for a band that has just released their outstanding 4th album, Love is A Dog, that has received critical acclaim, the Guardian gave it 5 stars and it was well deserved. Tonight they prove just how good they are as a live band too. Tinpan Orange, led by wonderfully charismatic singer, Emily Lubitz, played out a faultless set, full of beautifully manicured songs from their rich musical history, offered with sincerity and grace. The energy of Tinpan Orange i subtly and professionalism rather than overt brashness, despite Lubitz proclaiming how nervous she was to play a home crowd. It made no difference, her voice angelic in moments, raw in others and soaring, in others.
On stage the trio have a completely relaxed demeanour. Playing through a handful of tracks from their new album along with tracks form their last 10 years together. Casual banter and their insights into their viral fan base in Turkey was met with some huge fits of laughter, we certainly were entertained. Alex Burkoy, provided the folk elements of the evening with some excellent Violin ability that provided all the songs for the evening with a unique touch and measure of sweetness. With the perfect venue for such a band, a great sound mix and the perfect audience, it would be difficult to offer stand out moments, it was just one big easy night of great music. ‘Rich Man’ was sexy, seductive and lyrically powerful, Burkoy’s violin sweeping behind Lubitz vocals. ‘Love Is A Dog’ had the cheeky swagger of Jonny Cash, her brother’s harmonies were precision.
Tonight, we add another brother and sister musical combination to the Australian Hall of Fame. Yet another band we have discovered a little too late but perhaps caught them at their prime. On listening back to their albums, they take on a whole new meaning, they are warmer and so much more memorable. We left with warm hearts and two delicious bottles of wine (between two).