Live Review: Josh Pyke & Bob Evans

5 December 2016 | 3:11 pm | Benny Doyle

"A joyous evening of music and laughter that highlights the enduring beauty of friendship."

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The first Friday of summer and we are down on the banks of the brown snake to hear two of Australia's favourite troubadours team up once more. We're expecting new takes on old classics and some sparkling repartee. The usher greets us with a huge smile and it's clear she is as excited about this gig as we are.

The billing tonight suggested a no-frills affair, and the set-up on stage all but confirms the focus will be on the men and the music - no bells, but probably some whistles. A couple of acoustic guitars and microphones, a pair of stomp boxes and a mini keyboard are positioned on a Persian rug. The brickwork is washed in a purple hue. Josh Pyke and Kevin "Bob Evans" Mitchell are touring as a duo of sorts for the first time in a decade, and seem absolutely rapt when they lay eyes on the first sold-out crowd of this run. Avoiding any sort of slow build, they kick off proceedings with Make You Happy and the harmonies are immediately wonderful.

Mitchell's Nowhere Without You follows, signalling the back-and-forth structure of their setlist. Bodies sway in the seated stalls and the general vibe is gleeful. Pyke's Forever Song captures that energy, while Don't Wanna Grow Up Anymore remains one of Mitchell's best efforts with the rolling, layered chorus elegant and slightly hypnotic.

In addition to their musical talents, what's helped entrench both Pyke and Mitchell in the hearts of Aussie music fans is their personality and charisma. They are affable blokes you could imagine shooting the shit with, so it's no surprise that the banter this evening is A+. Between each song they take the opportunity to razz each other, and it's big brother/little brother comedy gold. Mitchell regularly swigs out of a red wine bottle like it's the most natural thing in the world.

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They've written a couple of originals specifically for this tour. Pyke introduces the moody Desperate as "pretty fucking good", to which Mitchell replies, "Maybe you're overselling it?" with a wry smile. Pyke is right, though, the song is a winner and it provides an opportunity for the pair to trade lyrics rather than just lead and follow. They also cover each other's songs - with Pyke's take on Sadness And Whiskey especially emotive - and even play a couple of tracks solo, with these slight variations adding further dimensions to an already multi-dimensional show.

After intermission, highlights remain plentiful. The men match up impeccably on Hand Me Downs (by Mitchell), with Pyke manning a hefty 12-string guitar. Pyke's Lines On Palms, meanwhile, segues into The Proclaimers' I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) — completely off the cuff. Harmonicas also become a constant, while the jokes keep on coming ("Josh Pyke is the only guy in Australian music to have a beard rider"). For an encore, we're treated to a Basement Birds cut, complete with Craig David impersonation from Pyke - which is as hilarious as it is impressive - before The Beatles' Two Of Us suitably concludes a joyous evening of music and laughter that highlights the enduring beauty of friendship.