Tag Archives: concert review

Getting to know yourself with the Dirty Three

Last night, I opened my live music account for 2010 at The Tivoli, with Laughing Clowns and Dirty Three joining forces as part of the Don’t Look Back concert series. The Don’t Look Back concerts emerged out of the legendary All Tomorrows Parties Festival and since 2005 have showcased bands in the USA, UK, Europe, Australia & NZ, playing one of their classic albums from start to finish… just some of the artists and albums to have been given the Don’t Look back treatement include Iggy & The Stooges (Fun House), Slint (Spiderland), Sonic Youth (Daydream Nation), The Saints (I’m Stranded) and Died Pretty (Doughboy Hollow).

Last night’s show opened with Laughing Clowns playing one of their retrospective albums, History of Rock ‘n’ Roll Volume One. I know it may be seen as sacrililege in these parts, but the band just didn’t work for me on stage last night. At times the band locked into some mean, bass-heavy grooves, but the members seemed disparate, never quite coming together to forge new ground. Wegner’s drumming, lost somewhere between jazz flourishes and straight ahead rock beats, seemed overstated and instead of uniting the elements, left them stranded, looking for structure. It wasn’t until album closer, Collapse Board, where saxophonist Louise Elliot unleashed, playing like a wounded animal calling for its mate to couple in unrelenting bliss until the light goes out in their eyes, that the band seemed to surprise themselves and (rather than recreate) create a sound that pricked the ears and skin.

And then after a short break, the good ship Dirty Three hit the stage, with captain Warren Ellis, luminous in spirit greeting the crowd, while the crew of Jim White and Mick Turner, readied the vessel for the journey ahead. Ellis tells us they will be playing Leo Sayer’s Just A Boy, which would be fascinating to hear, but as the anchor is pulled, Ellis reveals that tonight, it is Ocean Songs, an album recorded in the late 90’s over five days in Chicago with Steve Albini, with the idea of being quiet.

Ocean Songs for me, has always been much more than an album… it is a year at sea. And as the band launch into the opening notes of Sirena, each of the members is transformed, taking on the vast power of the elements… White, the ocean, at times still and shimmering, at times rising thunderously, whitecapped and dangerous, but always present, always; Ellis the wind and sky, unpredicatbly moving from a gentle caress to a blinding squall, a high-kicking dervish, whose sound is so vast you never reach the edge; and Turner, the tide, knitting it all together, his constant pull, while not always at the fore, always felt deep.

Warren’s got a story for each of the songs; the epic Authentic Celestial Music is about love and it’s fucked up nature, how it’s like realising that 98% of it is like being in a bowl of soup, wondering how you will get out; Last Horse On The Sand is about vastness, realising you are so small that it doesn’t really matter (as Warren says, baby I may not be much, but I’m the last horse on this sand); Black Tide is dedicated to the late Roland S. Howard; Backwards Voyager is a middle finger salute to flying economy and getting probed (literally) by the Chicago police; and Sea Above, Sky Below is about realising even the birds in the trees and the nice old lady down at the shop are telling you to get fucked, so you go home and take pyschadelic drugs and get to know yourself better than even the good lord intended and how you come out of that haze 5 years later and realise they have been the best five years of your life, so you go down to the shop and bend that nice old lady over the counter and say thank you.

It’s a show that surpasses the epic beauty of the original… Dirty Three are a band playing for their lives, all of our lives and tonight, all who (truly) climbed aboard, have returned transformed by these elemental forces, salt-licked and staggering, having been taken to the edge of wonder and allowed to drink.

* if you couldn’t be there, this doesn’t capture the magic, but it is incredible in it’s own right… this is a link to Dirty Three playing many of the songs from Ocean Songs as part of ABC TV’s Studio 22 series.


Filed under events & opportunities, who listens to the radio?

Review: Leonard Cohen live at Brisbane Entertainment Centre

At 74 years of age, Cohen is still a man working for our smile. Last night there were more than ten thousand of them looking back at him. It was a joyous transaction.


Cohen stood as a beacon of beauty, hope, humility. Every word, every movement (that now famous shuffle) infused with a commitment to delivering his life’s work.

From opener Dance Me To The End Of Love, Cohen’s voice sat somewhere deep inside me, resonating. His lyrical legacy laid bare in a show that spanned more than 3-hours. For the most part, the audience sat hushed, each of them a pilgrim, there to be transformed by the music, poetry and spirituality of Cohen’s words. And although the music is stunning, each of the players in this 9-piece ensemble brimming with passion, it is the words that hold us.

His well-worn baritone beguiles as he strips back the opening of ‘Anthem’, speaking the words:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Later in the show, he gives a solo reading of  the first verses of ‘If It Be Your Will’:

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

before standing back, hat held over heart as the angelic Webb sisters, take the lead and deliver a stunning, stripped back version of this song.

And then he returns the lyric of A Thousand Kisses Deep to their poetic heart, reciting them with only a whisper of Hammond Organ to accompany him.

In these moments Cohen, the poet, holds us breathless.

There were many other standouts, in a set list that showcased every period of Cohen’s work. Some of mine were, My Secret Life, Famous Blue Raincoat, First We Take Manhattan, Who By Fire and Tower of Song, where Cohen urges the gorgeous backing vocalists Sharon Robinson and Charley & Hattie Webb to ‘keep going, keep going that’s all I want to hear…’

Yes, Cohen not only delivers a concert studded with moments of illumination, he delivers the secret of life’s suffering. And it is… Do dum dum dum, de do dum dum.

After numerous standing ovations, he stands before us one last time. The audience on their feet, united, waiting for Cohen’s final sermon.

He thanks us for keeping his songs alive for so long, hopes we are all surrounded by love, family and friends, but if not, he hopes that happiness finds us in solitude.

The lights come up for the final time and I am left with one hand on my chest clutching the sonorous rumble of his voice. A voice I will never let out…


Filed under discussions, who listens to the radio?

Cohen’s Beacon of Light



Kathleen Noonan wrote today in her Last Word column in the Courier Mail that Leonard Cohen represents hope. Woven throughout her review of Leonard Cohen’s recent concert at the Rochford Winery in Victoria’s Yarra Valley is the uplifiting story of three brothers who have traveled long and far to be there… and I am not referring to distance. Cohen is a uniting force, someone there to right the ‘shipwreck’. At a time where everyone is talking about the ‘rough seas’ ahead, artists like Cohen have never been more important.

Read the full article here:



Filed under discussions