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Live Review: Orville Peck, Gena Rose Bruce

17 January 2020 | 1:30 pm | Joe Dolan

"For all the elusiveness, there is an undeniable authenticity to what Peck does."

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Whether she’s nervous on stage or just that softly spoken remains to be seen, Gena Rose Bruce's vocals are a million miles from her speaking voice. Performing as a duo tonight, the Melbourne singer intoxicates early-comers with a rich blend of shimmering guitars and her velvety tones. She coyly reveals that she has never performed Revive without a full band before, but the minimalist approach to the track proves an instant set highlight.

As the smell of the fog machine drifts through the crowd and the curtains rise, the opening chords of Big Sky ring out from a band of high-fashion cowboy kids. Front and centre is the man himself, decked out in a ten-gallon hat and a turquoise suit with a tapestry of the Nevada desert. His trademark tasselled leather headwear conceal his true identity.

On his back, in giant letters and glistening diamantes, he bears his moniker – Orville Peck.

In his signature southern drawl, Peck treats the audience to a low and hearty “G’day,” before declaring his love for drag, “the last subversive art form”, and kicks into Queen Of The Rodeo. With his band tighter than a lug nut on a John Deere tractor, Peck dives head-first into a double-barrel of Turn To Hate and Kansas (Remembers Me Now). Then, he beckons bandmate Brea Salvede out from behind the guitar to duet on the George Jones and Tammy Wynette classic, Something To Brag About. Their vocals meld together perfectly and Pecks' phenomenal baritone cruises through the tune with ease.

For all the elusiveness, there is an undeniable authenticity to what Peck does. Akin to the likes of Father John Misty and St Vincent before him, the alter ego seems to allow Peck to fearlessly reveal his own vulnerabilities through music. From the heart-wrenching Nothing Fades Like The Light to the autobiographical Dead Of Night, Peck gives away so much of who he is behind the mask without ever getting close to taking it off. That being said, the character of Peck himself is just as rounded and real as his performer. Crafting tales of badlands and one-horse towns, the stories of Peck are rich with colour and intensity. No more than in the yet-to-be-released No Glory In The West, which traverses the world of new-wave outlaws in that inimitable twangy sound.

At the end of the day, it seems that whoever the masked cowboy really is doesn’t matter at all. Everything he wants his audience to know is out there in all its diamond-studded, snakeskin-wrapped glory. In fact, it’s in the very first seconds of his time on stage that the answer is revealed – in a nod to Johnny Cash and cheeky reverence to his own perceived legend, three words: “I’m Orville Peck.”

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