Live Review: Jordie Lane, Sweet Jean, Leah Senior

21 March 2016 | 3:29 pm | Tim Kroenert

"The band is a picture of restraint as Lane gets his Leonard Cohen on in Sweet Somebody."

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It's been rainy as fuck today so sadly the retractable roof is closed, but that's not enough to stifle the convivial vibe. It's a little too convivial perhaps - both tonight's warm-up acts have to work hard to be heard over the yammer. Maybe that's why Leah Senior takes a while to hit her stride. Her acoustic folk songs (about how "all love is doomed" and "a lady named Jenny who lives in [her] head") are full of finicky fingerpicking and natural imagery. She has good vocal range and a lovely lower register, but it's not until the fourth song (after boldly abandoning the third midway through) that everything coalesces.

Sweet Jean have a well-drilled, two-pronged approach — shared vocals, with Sime Nugent on acoustic and Alice Keath on electric guitar — but it's pretty middle-of-the-road and we're not really feeling it. Later they are joined by Zane Lindt and Roger Bergodaz on bass and drums, who help mix things up on Parachutes and Shiver And Shake. The full band format serves Sweet Jean better.

Jordie Lane arrives in black coat and fedora and gets down to business: Diamond Ring is characterised by some slick harmonica and a sick solo by former The Basics guitarist Michael Hubbard. Lane regrets he won't be telling any of his famous, rambling stories tonight. The upside: it's because he has too many songs to get through. This is the first time in three years he's toured Australia with a full band and they make the most of it. Bergodaz uses mallets on his toms to add to the suspense of War Rages On; the band is a picture of restraint as Lane gets his Leonard Cohen on in Sweet Somebody. Frederick Steele McNeil Ferguson, the first single from Lane's forthcoming third album, was recorded in Northeast LA in a studio that doubled as a kitchen. According to Lane, if you listen carefully you can "hear the sound of frying eggs". We assume he's joking; nonetheless the song, named for his great-grandfather, certainly sizzles. Its brooding, alt-country vibe is rocked-up even further tonight, with Bergodaz really leaning on the drums. It and another new song suggest the album will push Lane well beyond his affable folk-country roots.

His collaborator Clare Reynolds (Noosa via LA) is on keys and backing vocals this evening and the pair showcase the synergy they've developed as a touring duo in the US and Canada during a short bracket that culminates in a cover of the standard You Are My Sunshine. As the band return, this expands into an unlikely, rocking medley with All Along The Watchtower (a la U2), before rockabilly stomper The Publican's Daughter closes the main set in style. The encore consists of an oddly off-kilter Lost In You and, finally, the Neil Young-flavoured Black Diamond; Lane's been playing this excellent song since 2013 and promises it'll be on the new album — something else to look forward to.

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