Monday, October 22, 2007

Words and Music

Paul Kelly @ Corner Hotel
20th October 2007

I must confess that my appreciation for Paul Kelly is only new. This is an atrocity given that I’m surrounded by massive Paul Kelly fans (dr b, pierre burkensoir and elmo to name only a few ardent devotees); and that his words and music are so intrinsic to the place and character of Melbourne, the only town I would ever really call home.

My new found admiration comes via his words. When plotting a birthday surprise of tickets to the Corner Hotel gig, I wanted to plant postcards bearing Kelly’s lyrics all around Elmo’s abode. It was through this process that I began to appreciate the universality of his stories and the simple, poetic economy with which he uses language. Kelly says so much without saying anything at all.

As a new recruit, I don’t feel that I deserve to comment too much more. Only to say that the gig at the Corner Hotel was amazing; there was an incredible energy from the crowd. Kelly’s set opened with They Thought I Was Asleep and featured plenty of material from recent album Stolen Apples such as You’re 39, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine, Stolen Apples Taste the Sweetest, The Ballad of Queenie and Rover. Other treats included How To Make Gravy, Deeper Water, Leaps and Bounds, Before Too Long and Careless.

Support act CW Stoneking and band joined Kelly during the first encore highlight ‘Stumbling Block’; the tuba from CW’s band providing a carnival-esque, ominous sound to the rousing chorus. The second encore featured an acoustic sing-a-long version of Everything’s Turning to White and From St Kilda to King’s Cross, ably backed by nephew Dan (Lovely Dan) Kelly.

The band, composed of established musos, sounded incredible, so crisp and clean, with a driving rhythm section from drummer Peter ‘Lucky’ Luscombe and bassist from Bill McDonald. I was excited to see ex-Even singer/songwriter Ash Naylor, resplendent in a ratty but smart pin-stripe suit, providing appropriate rock flourishes. All the band members variously sang harmonies, of particular note, Dan Kelly’s falsetto during Careless; and it was wonderful to see such a genuine camaraderie onstage.

Kelly’s songs elevate the familiar into poetry, hearing the opening words of Leaps and Bounds, I felt immediately at home: I’m high on the hill /Looking over the bridge / To the MCG / The clock on the silo / Says eleven degrees. I can imagine that ex-pats would feel a pang upon hearing even a flicker of Kelly’s words and music.

No wonder his gigs regularly sell out, the mutual warmth between Kelly and the crowd was undeniable; we’ll be sure to see him again soon.