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Okkervil River

Okkervil RiverLouis And The Honkytonk

Chevron Festival Gardens

Wednesday February 19, 2014

The Perth International Arts Festival has got many things right this year including having the support act perform before the headliner, and done away with the notion of the secondary band being the late night entertainment that will keep the punters there (it is the bar in the garden that does that). This night’s opener was local chaps Louis And The Honkytonk who played a set of psych pop that had a touch of Nick Cave thrown in for good measure.

Such were the amount of personnel changes that Okkervil River barely resembled the band that had been on Perth stages many times before. There was, of course, no mistaking tall front man Will Sheff with his ginger beard and thick glasses. The band wasted little time in launching into songs from the latest album The Silver Gymnasium with It Was My Season setting the scene and the pop bliss of On The Balcony sealing the deal.

There was no banter coming from the stage for the early part of the evening as one tune swung straight into another with the most notable points being a frenetic take on Black that was so much more muscular than these skinny, pasty white performers promised to deliver. Pink Slips is the stand out from the latest record and served the same purpose this evening. It was given a healthy dose of country twang to add an extra dimension to an already immaculate song, and was delivered in fine style when Sheff realised that pink slips is a term that is used in Australia and not just his hometown of Meriden.

When Sheff switched to electric guitar to add a bit more weight, the band only succeeded is sounding more tepid and at times indulgent. Stay Young was played with venom but was more forgettable that anthemic. Luckily this portion of the set was short lived as Real was tight and menacing with an impressive slice of guitar work from the impish Lauren Gurgiolo. There were hand claps and celebrations aplenty as Okkervil River hammed up Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe and the crowd obliged.

Wasting no time before returning for an encore, Sheff strapped on his well-worn acoustic guitar for a snail-paced solo rendition of Stone. When stripped back, he is capable of presenting the captivating and sensing the tone of the moments instructed the band to deviate from the scheduled set list for the dobro lead A Girl In Port. Sheff gesticulated to the crowd at the back to get out of their seats for the final tune and continued to wave his arms and writhe around the stage like a bookish Iggy Pop for the radio friendly Unless It’s Kicks. Okkervil River are a dynamic beast on stage and are in no way your average band.

CHRIS HAVERCROFT

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