"The highlights are truly highlights and don't deserved to be sullied by the lowlights of a half attentive room."
Opening its doors for the Friday Nights series, National Gallery Of Victoria is all rustle and bustle tonight.
Hermitage: The Legacy Of Catherine The Great is the gallery's pride and joy at the moment and it sees art fiends knocking heads with casual admirers trying to catch a glimpse of priceless works and, of course, Glenn Richards.
In slightly rare 'solo' form, tonight Richards is accompanied by The Drones' Dan Luscombe on guitar and Keirnan Box, Augie March keyboardist on bass/harmonica. The room is both beautiful and huge, but terribly laid out with tables and chairs for dinners taking up most of the space; with the low stage and oddly assembled crowd in front of it, it makes the band look like a covers band playing a furniture supply store's big Christmas party.
Richards is in truly fine form tonight — his trademark angelic voice is faultless from track to track and heightened by the minimal set-up which first comes into point with This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers, which loses its spaghetti western flavours and is stripped back and slowed down, resembling a Leonard Cohen track. Richards takes a moment to banter with the crowd about some bad gnocchi leading to 'semi food-poisoning' before Here Comes The Night from Sunset Studies, which is also beautifully reinterpreted and comes across with more maturity than the original, showing how Richards has grown as a songwriter and performer over the years.
Art gallery shows are always risky ventures for people there primarily to enjoy the performance and from this point on, it becomes a prime example of the cliche. Terrible sound issues pop up, with an endless feedback loop rearing its head in the mix, which Richards points out. Oh, and the crowd, the crowd… Following a 'hold your girlfriend/boyfriend' rendition of One Crowded Hour (which falls apart performance-wise towards the end) and a skippable version of The Cold Acre, it becomes too much to ignore the fact that half the people in the room have little interest in the show and are more invested in drinking average wine and yakking about the ancient grain salad with sherry vinaigrette and ricotta salata. The atmosphere destroys the tenderness of There Is No Such Place and closer Bottle Baby and sums up the show as a whole.
This is the wrong environment to see Richards perform in this capacity as the highlights are truly highlights and don't deserved to be sullied by the lowlights of a half attentive room. It feels as if NGV treated this performance like another piece in the gallery, just lined up and presented with care but without consideration from multiple fronts which leaves a sour taste on the way out.