Saturday, 21 April 2012

Purple fever hits Australia (more write-ups soon!)

Just a quick post to check in and let readers know that I have a few gigs to write-up and will post them very soon - namely the awesome Earth, Wind & Fire concert I went recently, Seal and Maceo Parker!

After leaving the Maceo Parker gig last Wednesday, buzzing from the amazing energy he and his band brought to the Corner Hotel, I discovered that there was about to be an announcement concerning an upcoming Prince tour down under!

Prince W2 Australia Tour
At 3am, news broke online and the "Welcome 2 Australia" tour was confirmed. This was huge news for me, along with all my Prince loving friends, and, between grabbing news wherever I could find it, scrambling for tickets (I'm seeing his 2 Sydney shows and 3 Melbourne shows) and launching my new unofficial Prince fansite, 'til the Dawn, things have been rather hectic!

Oh, yeah, and work. There's that, somewhere in there, too ;)

So that's where things are at for me right now. At one stage I was so busy going to live music gigs (not to mention comedy gigs, being that we've been in the midst of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival down here this month as well), that I was not finding time to write about them.

But that will all change shortly and I'll share my thoughts on these amazing gigs later this week, as we get ready for what is shaping up to be an extraordinary May here in Australia for live music.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Acoustic Magic @ Revolver with Michael Paynter and friends

I had no idea Revolver was that small.

For years, I've heard of gigs happening at "Revolver Upstairs", but I'd never actually made it there until last Wednesday night.

It's roughly the size of a large lounge room, perhaps like one you'd find in a house that has a fully stocked bar and stage in their lounge room.

Ok, so logistics are not my speciality, but still, I think you'd be hard-pressed to fit more than a hundred people in there* (though I get the feeling it's the type of place that does exactly that, frequently).

In any case, it looked fairly busy when I arrived, in that all the couches were taken and they were fresh out of leaning space at the bar. In comparison to later, when Michael Paynter finally emerged, however, it was positively spacious.

*Edit: Did I mention logistics are not my strong suit? I've discovered that the Revolver bandroom in fact has a capacity of 320 people, and, given that almost every square inch of space was occupied by the end of the night, there must have been close that many packed in - the point I was trying to make was that it certainly felt like a very intimate gig, despite my complete inability to even roughly estimate a headcount ;-) 

Jordan Clarey - 19 years old and well on his way... 

Jordan Clarey
Photo: Jordan Clarey 
It's a shame that more of Michael's audience couldn't have arrived sooner, myself included, because his first support act, Jordan Clarey, is clearly a rising star. I arrived half-way through what turned out to be his last number, so he's another act I'll need to catch properly another day.

Apparently Jordan is auditioning for X-Factor this weekend, so, with some trepidation, I wish him all the best.

I'm hesitant only because, with his youth and his pin-up worthy image, he could look dangerously like pop fodder to anyone looking to make some quick money out of "the next big thing", when he could otherwise be laying the groundwork for a more long-term music career, that is rarely helped by being moulded and "reworked" and thrust into the national spotlight too soon.

After all, Justin Bieber's backers swear up and down that he's an extremely talented musician underneath all those layers of artificial choreography, stylised image and highly-processed music, and I suspect it to be true. However now, despite all of his - albeit remarkable - success, the manufactured "pop sensation" that is the "Justin Bieber" the world knows has become the butt of most musicians' jokes (Paynter included).

But I digress.

Listening to some of the tracks off Jordan's EP, "Calm Before the Storm", coupled with what I saw of his performance on Wednesday night, I believe he's well on his way to a very successful music career, one way or the other, and I look forward to hearing more.

Selena Cross - sounds of Silence... 

With a very early morning looming for me, I was initially a bit grumpy that I had to wait almost another hour to see Michael, but by her second number, a beautiful ballad called "Your Colour Blue", Selena Cross had already won me over.

Selena Cross, "The Other Side"
Photo: Selena Cross
(album cover, "The Other Side") 
She shared some "family favourites", starting with the uplifting "I'm Not Lost", a song her young son was apparently singing along to with great fervour during rehearsal, followed by her mum's favourite, "Travelling Warrior", and finally "My Old Man and the Sea", which she wrote for her father.

When you realise that someone is about to cover a song as incredibly popular as Adele's "Someone Like You", it's a strange and not altogether terribly pleasant feeling, but Selena put her own energy into the song, giving it almost a country vibe, and ended up doing it very well.

In fact, inventive covers seemed to be the order of the night, with all of them being a pleasure to listen to.

Selena's last number of the set was "Silence", a beautiful track that demonstrated her talents on vocals and keys, not to mention substantial her song-writing ability.

So the over-sized lounge room was filled to capacity when Michael Paynter finally took to the stage, close to 10pm.

Michael Paynter - part Elvis, part Farnsie, all muso...

Michael Paynter
Photo: Michael Paynter 
At the start of the year, I had no idea who Michael Paynter was. I only learnt about him when Iva Davies introduced him during the Icehouse concert that I went to last month and he did a fabulous job on vocals for "Man of Colours" - no mean feat, given that I couldn't really imagine anyone except Iva singing that song.

I now realise that he's had considerable success over the years, seemingly along with a few roadblocks, and, although the first thing that struck me when he opened with "Shadows" was how much he sounded like John Farnham, I'm reluctant to go on about it, given that it seems to be the first thing most music writers point out.

Then again, being constantly compared to one of the most successful Australian artists of all time must surely have an upside.

The Internet is not being very helpful in providing me with an accurate discography or history for Michael, but the most important element seems to be that he released an album in December of last year called Money On Your Tongue, from which he drew several songs, including "Novacaine" and "Fake Away", as well the title track itself, for his acoustic performance.

Evidently a massive Elvis fan, he also shared with us one of the covers from the album, namely his re-imagined version of Elvis Presley's "Devil In Disguise".

In introducing the cover, he spoke of how valuable the process of re-inventing a classic song could be; stripping it down, working on it, rebuilding it, etc... He suggested that in the end, you either end up with "a musical black hole of crap" or something really special. Thankfully, on this occasion, he came up with the latter - an almost haunting version that delivered the message of the song in a way that allowed me to appreciate it much more.

He also delivered a new single which was called "Weary Stars". He obviously has plans for it, including making it a big number during his upcoming regional tour, and I absolutely see the potential for it becoming an outstanding hit live. It was one of my highlights of Wednesday night and, although I don't think any recording could do it justice, I did find a good quality clip of it to share to give you an idea.

There's a very strong blues influence in Michael's work, which was most evident in his very impressive cover of the classic Little Walter / Elvis Presley song, "My Babe".

Along with his band (that consisted of another guitarist, bassist and back-up vocals), he also covered "Man Of Colours", which of course I'd hoped he'd do, given how I came to discover him. Again, it was a respectful and enjoyable cover, adapted appropriately for what was a completely different set-up and environment.

"I Forgot How To Love" was another touching number, made particularly special by Michael's announcement that it had been short-listed for the 2011 International Song Writing Competition, with winners to be announced next month.

So after a long and enjoyable set, he announced that he was going off stage, was going to take a few breaths, and then return. As we clapped and cheered, he did exactly that, before explaining that an encore was actually in his contract - a bizarre mutation of what it's intended to be, but, as far as this audience was concerned, he was coming back either way, so it all worked out.

His last song seemed like it was going to be "Freedom's Not For Me", another beautiful song from "Money On Your Tongue", yet, as the applause lingered, he started playing again, this time with another really bluesy guitar riff, and sat on it for a while until he revealed what, for me, was the absolute stand-out piece of the night.

Unfortunately the clip missed the start, but you get the idea.

Covering Michael Jackson is a dicey option for any musician, but this blues-infused, acoustic version of "The Way You Make Me Feel" was absolutely magic, and by the end I was close to reverting back to the sixteen year old version of me who saw MJ live all those years ago. Thankfully, for all concerned, I managed to restrain myself.

He is one of very few artists I would say this about, but I'd be very curious to see him tackle a Prince song (not necessarily one of his chart hits).

Wednesday had been a long one, work-wise, and, considering the next day started with a 7:30am committee meeting, I had very nearly skipped this excursion to Revolver altogether. But, remembering a conversation I'd had with a certain gardener (of sorts) recently, I decided to push myself into going. So off I went, flower in my hair and all, and was rewarded with a terrific night of local talent and acoustic loveliness.

Thanks to Jordan, Selena, Michael and all of the musicians (and the sound tech, who we were told made a great sacrifice to be there when the original sound guy got stranded in transit!) for transforming our Wednesday night into something really special.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Cheap Fakes - the real deal!

picture: Cheap Fakes 
So I was way overdue for a pub gig.

I've been going to loads of live events recently, but most of them have been in big venues, fixed seating, book in advance, etc...

Certainly all worth it. But it occurred to me that it had been some time since I last just showed up at a bar to see a local band perform in the back room (or rather, upstairs, in the case of Bar Open in Fitzroy).

So the Cheap Fakes aren't Melbourne local, but they're Queensland local and that's close enough for me.

Furthermore, this was their first gig in Melbourne, so the night had the sort of vibe about it that comes when a new band is on the rise and are celebrating an album launch with those in the know.

That is, until "those in the know" suddenly became a small army that stormed the tiny dance floor.

It wasn't until later in the night that it finally registered that I was surrounded by Queenslanders. See, most people down here don't know about the Cheap Fakes, but up north they're kind of a big deal.

And, quite frankly, the sooner that spreads to the southern states, the better.

photo credit: Cheap Fakes
These guys are a 5 piece band bringing old-school 70s funk (and fashion) into 2012, along with reggae, ska, latin and any other genres that take their fancy along the way.

The gig started with the instrumental Stoink (she writes, with the sort of mock confidence that comes from an inventive memory), and suddenly I had flashbacks to seeing Hypnotic Brass Ensemble live last year.

The first track off Hand Me Downs, the album they were launching that night, Stoink is brassy and funky, with a spattering of Sun Ra style cosmic sounds and a hip-hop attitude in the beat.

Songs melded into each other to keep the music coming, with guitarist and frontman - and all round impressive performer - Hayden Andrews soon taking to the mic, performing tracks from both their older album and the one that's just hatched.

"Stones and Sticks" is the title track from their 2010 album and it's been on high rotation in my car since the gig. Very cool track which went off live.

Other highlights for me were Fonk, Grand Ol' (or is that just because I can't stop playing it at home?), Cramped and All I Know.

As for that last one, I knew I'd heard it somewhere before. It was the same place I'd first heard about the Cheap Fakes - the Peach and Black Podcast.

This podcast is a terrific blend of intelligent, witty, musically informative and, at times, downright silly discussions, predominantly about Prince's music, but more recently expanding to associated artists and beyond. One of the guys who features on these podcasts is also in the band, and "All I Know" was the outro to one of their recent shows.

One of the tracks (I think it was Amp Crackle) had a beautiful Spanish vibe weaved strongly into yet another genre blend, that went beyond latin into almost a story-telling mode, that seemed to be about something taking place in the context of a bullfighting ring. Of course, that might have been because it was past my bedtime and I have a notoriously wild imagination, but I have a lot of time for any music that can create such rich scenes, even independent of the lyrics (that might be telling an entirely different story).

Bassist James Watson, along with Josh Appleby and Scott Bignell, kept the vibe true to that of a 60s or 70s style cop show in tracks like Goon Va Doon and Fonk. Josh was fantastic on tenor sax and Scott looked after trumpet and keys simultaneously - I still don't quite know how that works, but I don't care. It was awesome.

Damien Campbell clearly came with his own cheer squad from the regular cries of "drum solo!" from the audience, but fair enough too, because apart from a brilliant effort all night, when he did deliver on the solo, it was well worth the fuss.

Another favourite of mine, both live and now on their new album, "Sand on the Beach" is a really fun track that reminds me at times of The Cat Empire.

The boys have dates booked right through the year and are currently back up in Brisbane I believe, having just played a gig with Charles Bradley at Brisbane Powerhouse.  Word is that they'll be back in Melbourne in June, this time to play at The Corner, but with any luck they'll have cause to come down here between now and then as well.

So a fantastic night was no doubt had by all, upstairs at Bar Open last Friday night. My only regret is that I couldn't make it a bit earlier to see Ultravibralux play their set. I did catch their last song and they were clearly a great complement to the Cheap Fakes. I'll be keeping my eye out for their next gig, so hopefully will get to write more about them soon.

Ahh, the local scene. Sticky floors, drunk patrons, fun and friendly bands and fabulous live music.

Need to do more of it.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Boing Fwip! The Blanks visit The Forum

I'm a sucker for some a cappella.

photo credit: The Blanks 
It's true. For all my love of instrumental music, the ability to strip everything else away and create a variety of sounds with nothing but one's voice is a source of both fascination and great entertainment to me.

The Blanks may not be a household name, but any Scrubs fan will recognise them as the Worthless Peons - aka. Ted's band.

Written into the show because producer Bill Lawrence was such a fan of their work, the boys got a lot more exposure than they most likely would have otherwise, with their wacky blend of comedy and barbershop being a somewhat unique choice of genre, particularly when their song choices include TV theme songs from old cartoons and loveable 80's sitcoms.

So being a fan of both Scrubs and a cappella music, I was excited to head upstairs at the Forum Theatre to see The Blanks perform live on Wednesday night.

The sound man was already playing some background music as I took my seat - not particularly unusual of course, although the fact that the song playing was the ludicrous YouTube sensation, "Trololo", was indicative of the madness that awaited us.

The show was centred around the early revelation that there was a famous talent scout in the audience (despite them repeating the name at least a dozen times during the show, I've still managed to forget it) that had the potential to put them on Broadway, but their show had to tick so many boxes in order to make the cut. Thus the smooth transitions between songs, dramatic moments, audience connections, etc... were all played out, pantomime style, to demonstrate to this imaginary talent scout that they had what it takes to take their show all the way to the top.

These are very funny guys with witty improv skills who are, of course, extremely good at their craft.

Whether they were singing medleys of the aforementioned sitcoms and cartoons or performing the beautiful number, "A Little Polish", which Philip wrote for his grandmother's 80th birthday party (The Blanks' first gig), their harmonies were as lovely as they were clever.

The first half of the performance was quite Scrubs-focused. They clearly understood their audience and were happy to give us what we wanted, so we enjoyed almost all of the tunes that featured on the TV show, including the theme song, "Superman", as well as the Emmy-nominated gem (and my personal favourite), "Guy Love", which featured in Season 6, Episode 6, "My Musical".

The second half was more about what this quartet have done outside of Sacred Heart Hospital, including the intriguing integration of toys (sorry, "special guests") into their numbers. Taking a talking pumpkin and triggering it just so, to make it a fifth voice in the new Halloween anthem, aptly titled, "Happy Halloween" (incidentally the only thing the toy can say) is a lot more entertaining than it may sound. 

One particular section of the show was dedicated to connecting to the audience ("tick!"), where each band member told their absolutely true story. And how could you possibly doubt the handing down of the sacred toupee that, for generations, has brought success to a long line of eastern European pummel horse gymnasts?

I wonder if these stories could have been a little shorter, for as funny as they were, there did seem to be a distinct drop in energy with such a long gap between songs. That said, perhaps I am just sad that there was apparently no time for another of my favourite moments from Scrubs, their delightful cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"

I dare say there might be another reason it didn't make the cut though, as it also fails to make an appearance on "Riding the Wave", the funny-cos-it's-true title of their album.

No doubt Ted, being a highly successful lawyer, knows the reason. What do you mean, his name's Sam and he's not a lawyer? 

In any case, it really was a very funny and entertaining evening. Their take on one of those "Time Life" style ads for a nostalgic compilation album that runs through 23 famous tracks in a couple of minutes (complete with voice over) was extremely impressive.

For their encore, The Blanks said that they'd prepared another medley, this time of traditional Australian folk songs, to celebrate their first tour down under. 

They lied. 

But that's ok, because it turned out to be a different sort of medley - and one that was thoroughly enjoyed by all, no doubt like the show itself. 


The guys did, in fact, get the all-important "Yes" from the big Broadway producer (gotta love a happy ending), but, despite their continued - and richly deserved - worldwide success, I hope they find it in their busy schedule to make it back down to Australia again soon. 

For anyone reading this in the northern states of Oz, check out their website or their Facebook page for details of the rest of their tour, including Brisbane on Wednesday 14th March and Sydney on Sunday 18th March. 

Monday, 27 February 2012

"Men of Substance" - Vintage Comedy by Tripod

Friday night. 2012. The Playhouse. Deep in the belly of the Arts Centre.

Photograph © Lynton Crabb 
A far cry from the crowded, noisy university caf back in 1998 when I accidently tried to give "Vote Activate" flyers to the very comedians that had been booked to try to woo student voters as they left after the performance.

It's always a risk when you haven't seen a comedy group perform for a few years. Would they still have good material? Would it be new, or would they be doing the same skits as last time? (Not that I would have minded...) Are they still the lovable nerds we can all relate too or have they gone "Hollywood"?

These fears (particularly the last one) were quickly laid to rest when they opened the show with a mock boy band dance routine that would make even a gleek cringe, followed by a cautionary tale about technology, warning us to check our iPhones and iPads and set a Google alert on our laptops so we don't get caught unawares when computers start to take over the world.

Tripod have been entertaining us now for sixteen years and this show was certainly a celebration of that, as the boys embrace their apparent shift into the next stage of life - signalled by their ode to "Adult Contemporary" music and, later on, a sensual journey into the world of the much sought after, tried-and-tested man, or, more accurately, the DILF.

Along the way they helped us with our taxes, breaking down how one completes a BAS - with everyone in the audience that's been exposed to the displeasure of a GST experience most likely laughing the loudest as they argued on stage as to whether or not you divide by ten or eleven in order to determine how much GST you owe (spoiler alert: it's eleven).

For long-term fans of this trio, no, there was no hot dog man in sight. No Fabian, the no-nosed reindeer, either.

Ahh, memories.

There were, however, various reflections on married life - on becoming one of "those" couples who seem to lose the ability to form an individual opinion once they're married - and on planning a life together. Let's get married, have a baby, move near a pub that has live music, and get it shut down.

Woah, controversial.

Did I just accidently fall back into the Tim Minchin gig from a couple of weeks ago?

They surprised themselves (apparently), but the crowd loved it. The song I'm going to call "Blueprint" due to not knowing its real name was definitely a highlight and touched on some very real issues, the timing of which was beautiful, given that the day between their two performances in Melbourne last week was SLAM day ("Support Live Australian Music"), a day and night of live music performances in support of the remaining live music venues around the country that have not yet been completely crippled by noise restrictions and liquor licensing policies.

Overall, it was a wonderfully witty performance, strengthened by the unquestionable musicality of the trio - a fact that remains consistently understated, but without which the whole gig would technically be just as funny, but not nearly as entertaining.

So after opening with a warning about the dangers of technology taking over and finishing with "YouTube Party" as their encore, these - dare I say it - NILFs are as funny today as they were back in Fables lounge, in the RMIT caf and in whatever pub my sister dragged me to the first time I saw them perform (it's probably been closed down by now).

They thanked us at the start for logging off, shutting down our various devices and coming out to see an actual live performance and I'm very glad I did.

Of course then I had to jump back online to blog about it :-)

Essence of Music - Fat Freddy's Drop & Erykah Badu

"From then on, I realized this is what I want to do, what I'm supposed to do: Giving energy and receiving it back through applause. I love it. That's my world. I love it. I enjoy it. I live for it." - Erykah Badu

On Wednesday night my friend Kylie and I went to see Erykah Badu at the Palais Theatre in St. Kilda.

The support act was Fat Freddy's Drop and between the name, and a very brief look at YouTube for what their style of playing was, I decided that I didn't mind whether we got there in time for them or not, because I wasn't particularly interested. 

So that was a valuable lesson.

Fat Freddy's Drop

Fat Freddy's Drop were brilliant. Whatever clips I'd seen did not do them justice. I was expecting a DJ and one or two on the mic. What we got was a DJ, vocalist, keyboardist, guitarist and a tight little horn trio of (predominantly) trombone, trumpet and sax that fused half a dozen music styles into a performance that was captivating, energising and musically fascinating.

Photo credit: Gregory Lynch 
From what I can gather, they are generally referred to as a dub/reggae group, which I suspect is simply for lack of a better way of categorising them. Yes, electro-Caribbean beats drove a lot of the music, but layered over the top were elements of soul, funk, blues and more than a little New Orleans style jazz. Hip-hop added flavour at times without being overdone.

Trumpeter Toby Laing once said, "live performance is the most natural state for music," and this group, along with Ms Badu later on, demonstrated this beautifully.

I learnt after their performance that they often improvise on stage, going with the energy of the space and the feel of the music, and I'm not surprised to hear it.

Their music was heavily progressive in parts, taking its time, building the energy slowly but surely, bringing the Palais to a delightful simmer, until finally it was time for the pot to boil over.

It would be hard work, I would imagine, to get 3000 patrons on their feet in an old-style theatre that was never built for a party. But work hard they did, with Joe Lindsay gradually stripping down to singlet and boxers in between trombone and tuba solos and jumping about, hyping the crowd, whilst the music built to a feisty climax.

It was as if the energy in the room could no longer be contained, with individuals suddenly jumping up out of their seats and dancing, much to the delight of the band. First there was a dozen, then soon it was fifty, even a hundred people on their feet. Eventually we were all up and dancing and the band responded, stepping it up another notch, as if suddenly renewed by the energy we were finally giving back.

The interval was long, which gave everyone a well-earned rest (though perhaps wasted a bit of the energy that had been so expertly built by the more-than-just-support act almost an hour before).

Then suddenly, the lights went down again.

Erykah Badu

I am still a fairly new convert to Baduizm. There were rumours a couple of years ago of her making an appearance at an impromptu Prince gig in Paris and, though it didn't eventuate, it led to discussions of their mutual respect and appreciation for each others' music and so, of course, I went out hunting for more on this so-called Queen of Neo-Soul.

Such a title would explain her majestic entrance on Wednesday evening, amidst a darkened stage, her band already providing a soundtrack to her introduction. Her graceful movement and dramatic gestures were tempered by a not-so-glamorous outfit, at least to begin with, of a trench-coat and oversized, white framed glasses, with her hairstyle more indicative of a conservative librarian than a glamorous soul singer.

Photo credit: Gregory Lynch 
Erykah is a beautiful demonstration of someone who has built a strong enough ego to withstand the perils of fame, but who is not controlled by it. It is a tool she has learnt to wield, rather than the tyrant it can become when left unsupervised.

As such, she can hold unquestioning command over the stage, as well as her completely captive audience, yet can reveal layer after layer of self through her music, exposing fears and truths with vulnerability many would struggle with simply in the company of one.

Erykah has said previously that she does not consider herself a singer - that she simply allows people to watch her feel music and how it comes through her. Listening to her, this makes sense.

Though R&B is in the palette of so many of my favourite artists, it's not a genre that I generally connect with and as such, was not drawn in to her music, heavily rooted in R&B, as much as the rest of her audience clearly was.

But her singing. That was just one big continuous highlight for me.

Whatever the song, to watch her feel the music, to see how it came through her, undiluted and unfiltered, was truly a privilege.

She sang older material like 'On & On', as well as tracks from her 2010 CD, New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), including '20 Feet Tall' which she opened with, right up to a new, presumably unreleased piece that she expressed gratitude for being able to share.

'Didn’t Cha Know' closed out Erykah's set - she dedicated it to her friend James Yancey and said that it was her favourite song to sing. The way she sang it, no one would argue. Again, the vulnerability of spirit allowed for the music to flow and soar, seemingly effortlessly.

She returned to the stage to wild applause to perform 'Bag Lady' as an encore, ending up in amongst the crowd, handing the mic to excited fans, one of which did a great job, covering the vocals for her as Erykah climbed back on stage, only to jam some more.

Both performances of the night were excellent examples of the essence of live music - a vibe that simply cannot be reproduced (solely) digitally. The presence of the performers, the energy of the audience, that moment in time that has to be lived, not recorded.

If it's been a while since you've seen some live music being played, it's a good time to ditch the earphones and find somewhere to go.

Whether it's to a large venue to see an international sensation like Erykah Badu, or a local pub to see a band the rest of the world will never have the privilege of hearing, it's worth the ticket (or cover charge) to get a bit of the real deal into your system.

It's good for the Soul.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The anchovy in the apple pie - Tim Minchin vs. the MSO

Music is an element of a lot of comedians' acts.

Conversely, comedy is an element of a lot of musicians' shows. 

The thing about Tim Minchin is that I don't know whether he is an extremely witty comedian who just happens to be remarkably musical, or an astonishingly good musician who just happens to be hilarious. 

He's usually referred to as a comedian, but after last night's performance, backed by a 60 odd piece orchestra, plus bass and drums, I can't help but suspect that Tim's natural comedic skills have simply been honed into a particularly impressive vehicle by which to showcase musical talent that might otherwise have slipped through the cracks of a society that seemingly has less and less time for quality musicianship. 

As for his apparent penchant for wooing an audience, lulling them into a false sense of security with beautiful lyrics and seductive orchestration, only to say the most appalling thing one could possibly think of to say in that particular moment, well, that's just the anchovy in the apple pie that is Tim Minchin. 

The trailer above is for his new DVD, but gives a feel for the type of show currently re-touring Australia, after the success of last year's tour in the same style. 

Missing the show in Melbourne last year was in fact the catalyst for me making a promise to myself that I would be more pro-active in buying tickets and then actually going to live events that I wanted to see, rather than engaging in the less fun activity of mentioning multiple times to friends, "oh yeah, I want to see that", only to become apathetic closer to the date and not do anything about it - an activity with which I was well acquainted. 

Since making said promise, I've seen dozens of live shows and have since started this blog to go some way towards capturing these experiences, so I'm very grateful for Tim for starting me on a path that, roughly a year later, has rewarded me with something rare - almost a literal "rerun" of the show I missed. 

Last night's show started with a bang, as well as a familiar Minchin irony, where the very thing he's trying to take the piss out of - in this case, so-called superstars trying to out-do each other with grand or gimmicky entrances - turns out in fact to be particularly impressive. 

Similarly, his subsequent self-deprecating tale of the "Rock and Roll Nerd" made reference to writing song after song that the world will never hear, despite the fact that he now tours the world, selling out theatres and making frequent television appearances in Australia, the US and most particularly the UK, where the Aussie-born Perth native mainly resides these days. 

This flimsy but somewhat charming affair with imaginary mediocrity continued once he started talking, behaving awkwardly, as if he'd never done non-musical stand-up before. Ever the social observer, he drew attention to how uncomfortable some audience members were, seeing a comedian on stage stuttering and lost for words, and assured them that he'd tell a joke soon and it would all be better. 

And it was. 

The first half was comparatively tame, particularly with respect to social taboos. The main exception being "Context", a song I won't describe any further in case you ever have the unfortunate experience of taking part in this social experiment, no doubt executed predominantly for Tim's amusement, whereby perhaps a dozen people applauded meekly at the end, if only because they were too polite to let the crickets chirp unaccompanied. 

But of course it wasn't really the end, and we all got to breathe a big sigh of relief when it turned out that "Surprise!", Tim wasn't actually an abhorrent, racist, homophobic lunatic after all. Phew. 

What he is though is a fierce atheist, so he tackled the apparently ludicrous notion of prayer-invoked miracles early on in the show. In the second half, he tore shreds off the Vatican with his Pope Song and Pope Disco combo, which has pretty much blown my swearing tolerance quota for the year, but other than that, and a brief discussion about sacredness whereby he placed a copy of the Qur'an on the piano and mused about why a particular object holds so much power ("such as the power to make 3000 generally jovial Melbournians suddenly very nervous"), he generally left his notorious pet peeves of religion and spirituality alone. 

He demonstrated his ability to pen a beautiful love song, superbly orchestrated and titled "You Grew on Me", which also happened to be the first four words of the ballad. One could be forgiven for thinking we were about to hear something delightfully inspiring, in the same vein of his genuinely moving song, "White Wine in the Sun", had the remaining three words of the first line not been "like a tumour."    

Near the end of the first half, he played one of my favourite of his songs, entitled "Prejudice". 

I admit to being very confused though when Captain Irony asked everyone in the audience to sing along.

The second half started with a volley of gags that you feel you really shouldn't laugh at but can't help doing anyway. That led appropriately into "Lullaby", a deceptively sweet little ditty which is enough to make most non-parents a little queasy. 

Luckily, most of Tim's audience seemed to be parents of young children, who tend to be the ones that best appreciate a song dedicated to the increasingly morbid and disturbing thoughts that might enter the head of a beyond-tired father trying desperately to sing his child to sleep. 

"Cheese" and "Beauty" were back-to-back contrasting showcases of the musical talent of everyone on stage, a showcase that culminated in "Dark Side", Tim's notorious closing song that would surely leave anyone wondering how this artist does not get greater recognition as one of Australia's most gifted musical exports. 

This question was perhaps answered in part, during a frenzied "free jazz" moment in the midst of the drama and dark humour of the piece, when Tim cried out for a "conductor solo!"

Conductor (and long time friend of Tim's) Iain Grandage immediately obliged, turning briefly towards the audience and cutting through the sudden silence by gesturing wildly with his baton. 

Tim's encore was a genuinely lovely song titled "Not Perfect" - orchestrated beautifully by Iain (a task and privilege he'd apparently negotiated in return for touring with Tim) and a delightful way to end the night. 

Excellent comedy. Truly amazing music. Sporadically thought-provoking lyrics. 

The only thing missing was the standing ovation that Tim, Iain, Pete Clements (bass), Ben Vanderwal (drums) and the entire Melbourne Symphony Orchestra truly deserved. 

But then, he's just a comedian, right?