Live Review: Jack Ladder

14 September 2018 | 9:41 am | Nicolas Huntington

"Ladder's voice hits you hard from the first notes, the deep tone and years of experiences resonates to your core."

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For over ten years, Jack Ladder has been illuminating the rock and indie world with his signature view of love and the world around him, usually accompanied by his band The Dreamlanders. But after five albums and countless tours, Ladder decided to embark on a solo tour with shows where he can give some backstory on his creative process. Brisbanites were lucky enough to have Junk Bar selected as the venue for our leg of the tour – a venue that embodies Jack Ladder. A small 50-person room for a man whose stature is unforgettable at over two metres. Dim lighting and wood cabin aesthetics surround Ladder as he stands centre of stage with just his electric guitar, a pedal board and a glass of wine – and his classic stoic stare, of course. As with any gig at Junk Bar, it wouldn’t seem out of place in a Twin Peaks episode, especially with the ruminating voice of Ladder, and that only adds to the appeal of the night.

Opening with the stripped back croon of I Love Your Mind, it's an underappreciated cut off Ladder's second album Love Is Gone. Ladder's voice hits you hard from the first notes, the deep tone and years of experiences resonates to your core. While the vocals on early Jack Ladder records were quite static in their fidelity, experiencing these tracks live gives them a whole new life – especially as Ladder's voice has progressed over the years. Ladder then makes his way back to the very start of his career, playing a number of tracks off first album Not Worth Waiting For including beautiful country-esque number Two Clocks. Between tracks, Ladder makes it a habit to slowly sip his wine as he unravels yet another story about the roots of each track. Notable highlights include his reaction to a love song written for his girlfriend being used in Underbelly, and the story of his album Love Is Gone taking the album of the year award at WHO Weekly. Making his way through tracks from each album and spinning stories you would expect from a rock star like Henry Rollins or Iggy Pop, it’s crazy to think Ladder has only been releasing albums for just shy of 15 years – his stories wouldn’t be out of place for a 30+ year artist.

Ladder is playing two sets every night for this tour, with just him and the guitar for the first set and a heavy reliance on between song banter. While the second set sees Ladder employ backing tracks and dip into some of his more recent tracks off new album Blue Poles. As Ladder comes back on stage with a refill of wine, he dives into previous album Playmates with the descriptive prose of Come On Back This Way. A track which winds through a night of ups and downs as Ladder tries to convince someone to come home with him. Hurtsville favourite Beautiful Sound also makes an appearance before Ladder puts away the guitar and sings along to highlights from his new album. The backing tracks for songs from Blue Poles are all demo-versions, giving you further insight into how Ladder takes his ideas and makes them a reality on the album. The second set sees Ladder relaxing on the stories, with him starting to soak in the surrounds more – the absurdity of how many shirts he has for sale, why he is selling tapes, and how ridiculous a two-hour solo show is to him.

Taking a step back to pull out a cover of Iggy Pop cut Shades as “playing all of these tracks of my own is pretty self-indulgent". The cover is completely made his own as the tempo is slowed and what was once a happy-go-lucky love song is now an emotional statement. Crowd favourite and recent single Susan then comes into the set, with cheers all round. At well over the two-hour mark, Ladder sees it fit to end the set, but as chants start Ladder immediately squashes the hooting and hollering as “you can’t play two hours without an encore". He ends the set with a “bring the house down remix” demo version of Dumb Love, which does just what he says.