Steve Kilbey @ Mojos Bar
Thursday, August 24, 2017
The first strains of majesty rang out courtesy of the opening refrain of Providence, so inside we went. A beautiful 12-string acoustic strummed and a hastily-built band of locals added colour and fire when needed.
Drummer Shaun Hoffman looked a picture of concentration: “Holy shit, I’m playing with Steve Kilbey” written on each accent on the kick drum. His restraint was a perfect vehicle for Kilbey’s swirling and oft hauntingly-beautiful songs. Hannah Smilie danced lyrically on keys. Shaun Corlson on mandolin seemed very relaxed and quite confident to be sharing a stage with this Kilbey fella.
As the song closed our host seemed relaxed and talkative – “I’m 62. I look great for 62. I’ve been to jail, written a book and see the world through a prism of semi-darkness after being hit in the eye with a champagne cork.”
The beautiful Once from the Kilbey/Kennedy pairing followed and held most of the audience under its spell. But there’s always a few, isn’t there? Kilbey castigated some of the crowd for speaking during his performance. Those guilty of the indiscretion glared at the innocent to hide their shame.
Tristesse and the wonderful Mistress followed. Lonely City and The Ancient World, song after song, an artist full of confidence and a back catalogue to justify it.
The absence of bass left me wanting. Overall the sound was good but you just felt the bottom end was missing at times. I’m guessing the hurriedly put together ensemble just couldn’t muster another body. But as if on cue, Mr Kilbey strapped one on and the band launched into Wolfe.
Knowing You Are In This World (another K/K masterpiece of subtle beauty), Forever Lasts For Nothing, Fly, …yes I stole a set-list!
A highlight was Traitor Signals, as Shaun Corlson’s eerie, dissonant guitar twangs elevated the tune to experiential levels. As the set went on Hannah Smillie alternated between ivories and south paw guitar as a perfect counterpoint.
Steve announced his dual citizenship (a shoe-in for Federal Parliament) before expressing the fantasy to bed Pauline Hanson and introduce her to Marxism via some lefty pillow talk. I think Bronwyn Bishop got a mention, too. What a tryst!
The beer was kicking-in as September 13th kicked-in – a birthday tune co-written by Stephen Cummings. The mood of the room was an infectious high. Steve assured the audience that he is famous for murdering Dylan tunes, but if one died I failed to notice as he caressed Sweetheart Like You into the swooning hearts of an adoring crowd.
More banter with the tale of fallen Australian celebrity Peter Fenton who fell victim to the paparazzi when photographed with exposed ‘love handles’ and how poor reviews can destroy a career.
Under the Milky Way – truly an Australian classic etched into the landscape and into the collective soul of all those present – brought the house down and was a fitting segue into the closer, a rocking Hotel Womb. It rounded off an entertaining, solid show of part stand-up, part Australian rock and roll history and part song writing class, by one of its greatest exponents.
In town to promote an upcoming documentary about his life, Something Quite Peculiar, before embarking on a US tour with The Church, this is Steve Kilbey: musician, artist, author, producer… legend.
Photography by Allan Holbrook