Tim Minchin w/ WASO @ Kings Park & Botanic Garden
Saturday, February 20, 2021
WA’s favourite son this side of Kevin Parker, Tim Minchin helped kick off a COVID-delayed Perth Festival on Saturday. Supporting his first proper album of “non-comedy” songs, Apart Together, the crowd was understandably nervous given Minchin’s Ed Sheeran moment hasn’t exactly been an immediate winner. But hear me out: Apart Together is a grower and seeing it live was nothing short of inspiring. The homegrown funnyman was as on point as ever, and the songs took on a new meaning in the live setting.
That said, those early nerves weren’t helped by the difficult entry process and two-hour wait with no support act. Still, there are worse places to sit and wait for a concert than the grassy amphitheatre of Pioneer Women’s Memorial, and with Kings Park being that rare venue that allows you to drink an actual bottle of wine, like an actual adult, it was a pleasant enough start to the evening for those who lined up early to get the best spots on the hill. White wine in the sun, anyone?
Following a Welcome to Country, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) filled up the stage, soon to be joined by conductor Jessica Gethin and Perth Fest Artistic Director Iain Grandage who took to the grand piano. Whilst Minchin finally emerged playing acoustic guitar, the intro hardly lived up to the theatrics of his previous Kings Park performance with WASO; that time he emerged from a cage.
In many ways this created a more intimate approach, which was quite welcome as Minchin made firm friends with the 5,000 punters in attendance. But the suspect sound and lack of visual effects was somewhat at odds with material on Apart Together, which seems built for stadiums. With a backing band of familiar local rock superstars who sometimes clashed with the lushness of the orchestra, one sensed this show was still a work in progress, and it’ll be interesting to see how it looks after a world tour, should that materialise.
Following opener Summer Romance, Minchin immediately put paid to the suggestion this wouldn’t be a comedy show. His gift of the gab was immediately on show in a 10 minute plus interlude in which he hilariously name-checked last year’s Highway to Hell Perth Fest showcase event (he knocked it back thinking it would never work), and introduced us to his ‘Glossary of Terms’ including the 60s Batman cave (which may or may not be a sexual metaphor, apparently). Leaving LA eventually followed, culminating in the memorable lyric: “It’s just some really ugly letters/ On a relatively ugly hill”. His new record was already making more sense live.
More hilarity followed with anecdotes about hanging with the brother of Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s flat, and a cheap jab at the great Stan Grant, talking down his white privilege. Fortunately he wasn’t done with Stan Grant, who came up again later in one of the night’s most memorable moments; answering a raft of audience questions, Minchin delved into his controversial interview with Grant and his tone became serious, sincere and thoughtful: he recognised the legendary newsman for the inspirational Elder he is fast-becoming, and it was a heartfelt and inspirational moment that clearly showed Minchin is humble and as aware of his privileged white upbringing as anyone.
At times, it seemed as if the comedy between tunes was going to outweigh the songs themselves. Then the one-two of Apart Together and I Can’t Save You arrived in all their tender splendour, making the most of WASO’s gorgeous arrangements. A rocking guitar solo from Steve Hensby on Beautiful Head delivered the stadium moment that had been lacking to that point, before the night peaked on I’ll Take Lonely Tonight, a remarkable “song about not having sex with other people” (other than your wife, that is), which culminated in a huge orchestral crescendo. A highlight on his latest album, Minchin’s flirtations with the minibar of his hotel and waking up to “only the wrappers of Pringles and snickers for which to atone” was a most wonderful backhander to infidelity – a subject rarely explored in song.
The other highlight pre-encore was the bluesy Talked too Much, Stayed too Long. A lyrical and autobiographical tour de force for fans, if it’s not the ultimate Tim Minchin song about being Tim Minchin then what is? And it completely rocked live.
But if Talked too Much is quickly becoming his theme song, then White Wine in the Sun will forever be the most-loved song in Minchin’s discography, particularly for West Australians given its hometown connections. Once again finishing the encore with it, it produced tears, laughs and general joy among the transfixed crowd. As much a ‘wow’ moment as it was when it first appeared around a decade ago, it rounded out an unforgettable night of music, love, laughter and the occasionally profound deep thinking of one of WA’s greatest present-day talents.
Photos by Corey James