If we had to choose one thing that the Australian music scene excels at, it would have to be our ability to spawn talented singer/songwriters who can capture a country’s pride. From the brilliance of Nick Cave, to the raw Australian spirit of Jimmy Barnes, to the eclectic pop of Sia right through to the quintessential Australian storytelling wonder of true Australia, by Paul Kelly, we have an endless supply of country pride. Tonight, set against the painfully dated but helplessly charming Thornbury Theatre, Alex Gow and Dan Kelly demonstrate that they too can rightfully take their place with Australia’s best songwriters.
Thornbury Theatre conjures up memories of high school proms/socials and bad weddings with its completely dated 70’s feel that has a certain charm to it, if you drink enough. Large round tables were laid out like an awards event (or a bad wedding) with “guests” selecting the dinner and show ticket, by the time we arrived the tables were filled with half-drunk wine glasses.
Independently each artist has an impressive back catalogue as solo artists and with their respective bands, Alex Gow’s Oh Mercy, while Dan Kelly had fronted various bands, including The Alpha Males, The Ukeladies and the Dream Band. On lead up to the announcement of this duet headline, Dan Kelly said in the press release.
“I’m looking forward to touring with Alex. I like the cut of his jib. He’s out there trying to sing up some romance and adventure as he boogies and croons his way through the confusion of being a modern kid, stuck on a listing blue ship in the eternal loneliness of deep space. And he plays it left-handed. This is a good sign. We’ll try some of our own tricks and try and conjure up some majick together too. And we’ll pay homage to some Australian heroes and friends who set us on our merry way with their songs and stories. Yes, it will be a grand odyssey.”
Poised against a draped fabric backdrop of archetypal Australian paraphernalia painted onto it, including an Esky, a Weber and a Hills Hoist, the duo played through and hour and half set of musical hilarity. With an appreciation of both Gow and Kelly (Paul Kelly is his Uncle) musical talent, what we didn’t expect was to be brought to tears of laughter with what was one of the “funniest” gigs we have ever seen. Dan Kelly is one funny guy and to “say you had to be there” is no cop out on our part, it was the random mind, thought and banter that happened between Gow and Kelly that provide great moments of comic genius.
Alex Gow, is an outstanding lyricist, underrated songwriter, his voice with moments of Bob Dylan in its nasal projection but pitch perfect quality, sounded impeccable, offering great moments from his bands recent album including “Sandy”, “Lady Eucalyptus” and “Without You”. Solo, the sons sounded equally as powerful. While Gow offered the evening it’s soul and depth, we could rely on Kelly to bring the quirk and witty side to the evening’s entertainment, calling to the sound guy to make his voice sound like Paul Keating or Jimmy Barnes. You really had to be there!
Dan Kelly’s, “On The Run” sounding every bit like a song written by The War on Drugs with its driving rhythm. It was the gem of the night, a track the had the two guitarists sharing moments of psychedelic break out, while the beat of a drum machine kept nailing away in the background. “Never Stop The Rot”, showed Kelly’s ability to capture life’s moments in their simplest form, sharing the same song writing style as bands like Parquet Courts. Kelly then went on to show us just how, through a simple beating of the upper chest, he could make himself sound like Belinda Carlisle, as he broke into his own version of “Summer Rain”, brining cheer and laughter across the crowd.
Tonight we experienced more than music, a night of entertainment, a night of laughter and a night of feeling like we were all “true blue” Australians. Alex Gow and Dan Kelly are two exceptional artists who remind us that you can engage an audience with rapport and humour, but you just got to ‘have it” to make it an entertaining success as opposed to cringe worthy moments, and each of them have it in spades.