Live Review: Jim Ward, Jen Buxton

31 July 2012 | 10:59 am | Brent Balinski

A natural choice for support act whenever a tattooed-punker-turned-acoustic-guitar-slinging-country/folk musician rolls into town, self described singer of “miserable acoustic music of a vaguely alt-country persuasion” Jen Buxton never puts in a bad performance. She is, as Jim Ward reminds the audience later, from the “same gang” of punk kids who have ended up playing folk. By the time she finishes with the title song from her album Don't Change Your Plans, everyone's recommended dosage of beautiful, fingerpicking-driven, Ani DiFranco-ish songs and charming, sorta diffident between-song banter has been reached.

The Annandale wasn't too full-looking by the time Jim Ward began, and at a guess it'd've been much closer to capacity if it weren't for quite a few At The Drive In fans en route to Splendour. On My Way Back Home from Ward's 2007 Quiet EP is up first, followed by Sleepercar's A Broken Promise, handled smartly by a local drummer and bassist (unlike his visit here last August, with Ward armed with nothing save for his voice and a guitar).

Ward's set is broken up by endearing banter about everything from his pedalboard (“Big pedalboard. Nothing works, except the tuner...”) to having an old bandmate appear via hologram to an expression of obviously fake curiosity about the result of Masterchef. The yarn before the excellent My Town is amusing and shows Ward happy to make fun of a younger version of himself, writing a tribute to El Paso in the vein of Wilco's Via Chicago, then admitting that the whole thing turned out nowhere near as cool as he imagined it.

On the whole, Ward's act is more on the country side of things than most of the Revival Tour-style reformed punkers with acoustic guitar types. His non-rockstar attitude, authentic conversation between tunes (there was no inter-song “Nobody rocks like Sydney” or “You guys were way better than Melbourne” comments), and lightly-rehearsed and minimal but very effective backing band all made this an excellent set, which was a mild pity for the ATDI fans already at Byron Bay or on there way there.

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