Artists on Artists
On 17, Jul 2015 | In Artists on Artists | By jane
There’s nothing better than a matinee show in the Melbourne wintertime. A few Sundays back, a couple of hundred bodies crammed into the dark, carpeted Melbourne institution: The Northcote Social Club band room. The crowd eagerly awaited songs to soothe the winter chill. Brooke Russell played a welcoming solo set of country tunes as folks rolled in, and by the time Liz and her band hit the stage she delivered a vibe synonymous with her most recent studio album ‘Warm in the Darkness’.
You can tell how devoted a fan-base is by the way they listen. Staring out into the crowd, as Liz opened each track with her signature dry, witty humble commentary, I noticed how much people smiled with their eyes. Then during the music, their lips mouthed the lyrics like mantras, each track studied for maximum personal reflective impact. Most who have been touched by Liz’s music, (there are many) feel like the live performance is an institution, like church for the non-religious. Liz sings honest, well-crafted soulful stories with her signature husky tone and a melodic elasticity that complements her impeccable rhythmic guitar feel.
This is a woman who sings with so much heart that it’s not the first time I’ve heard people murmuring post-show about the profound impact her songs have had on their lives. Liz will always be a permanent fixture in the ‘People’s Choice Australian Songwriters Hall of Fame’. She deserves similar recognition to Gillian Welch in the US, or Paul Kelly here, but there are fundamental flaws in the Australian Music Industry that mean song-writers of this calibre often go unacknowledged. Those in the know are aware of how absurd this is, and hold her in high regard anyway.
It was great to hear some of her classics like ‘High Open Hills’, ‘In Anybody’s Language’ and ‘Glutton’ played with intensity and passion by the trio. Adam May’s drumming was as on point as ever. He has an uncanny ability to ‘play-to-the-song’ and to follow the nuances of Liz’s dynamics live. Tim Keegan’s flawless bass playing underpins key melodic lines, and provides a rich platform for Liz to paint over lyrically, yet it is his vocal harmonies that communicate next-level emotion.
‘Featherweight’ carried a huge energy live, showcasing Liz’s unique style of hook writing that effortlessly weaves guitar riffs and vocal melodies together. The encore achieved maximum impact, ‘Love Ain’t No Healer’ transporting the audience to that uncomfortable, but all-familiar place of heartbreak. There is a beauty in the way Liz frames the fragility of the human condition. It is the collective yet intimate acknowledgement of this vulnerability that makes every live show she plays a profound and healing experience.
Review & Live Photography by Aurora Jane for Mojo Junction – ‘Artists on Artists’
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Live shots from the NSC 5 July 2015 Liz Stringer show: