Live Review: Ed Kuepper

14 November 2012 | 10:50 am | Steve Bell

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There's a crowd gathered on the balcony at the back of the Old Museum before the doors have even opened, and the seats in the ornate studio quickly fill before Brisbane's one and only Ed Kuepper and his band tonight – long-time percussionist Mark Dawson, Joshua Watson on violin and Rob Knaggs on cello – take their seats and kick straight into the music, building subtly and Dawson coming to the fore early with some deft and intricate percussion, before Kuepper starts singing and we realise that they're playing The Saints' classic, Swing For The Crime, setting the template for the evening as it segues into All Of These Things. Although he's ostensibly launching new album, Second Winter, tonight Kuepper mostly avoids those songs in favour of a career overview, his voice cutting through the room, thick and expressive, as he remains seated and seems engrossed in the music while delivering What You Don't Know and Miracles, seeming miles away with eyes firmly fixed on something only visible to him. The string players come and go at intervals, at times leaving just the old firm of Kuepper and Dawson, but it's the songs such as Always The Woman Pays, Rue The Day and Skip James' Cyprus Grove Blues that have the besotted crowd feasting on the textures and nuances that liberally litter the arrangements. The unique level of adoration in the room is, of course, completely apt for this inveterate icon, but he seems oblivious to that as he moves through beautiful renditions of The Aints' Ill Wind and the impossibly evocative Electrical Storm. He continues flitting around his immense catalogue, dropping in an adroit version of The Laughing Clowns' Collapse Board, before offering a tight Pretty Mary and finishing the main set with a beautifully atmospheric take on The Laughing Clowns' evergreen Eternally Yours, which the band builds to a crescendo that sends shivers down the spine.

Although he's already been playing for ages, the crowd brays for more and Kuepper acquiesces, throwing open the floor for requests, which brings on a maelstrom of shouting – he has an easy rapport with his fans and takes this in his stride with a smile, continuing on with a slew of gorgeous tracks including Little Fiddle, Blind Girl Stripper, The Kinks' Steam Train (complete with happily compliant audience participation), The Way I Make You Feel and the brilliant Everything I've Got Belongs To You. By now two-and-a-half hours of beautiful music have passed, but before you know it Kuepper is out mingling with his fans, pressing the flesh and making an already memorable night that much more special for a slew of lucky punters. Ed Kuepper – incredible guitar player, brilliant songwriter, amazing singer, complete legend.