Live Review: Paul Dempsey, Fraser A Gorman

27 February 2016 | 12:27 pm | Joel Lohman

"Dempsey dedicates a stirring and sinister version of Man Of The Moment to Cardinal George Pell. 'Fuck that guy. Here's another song.'"

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As he straps on his harmonica neck holder,the affable Fraser A Gorman acknowledges he looks like “Leo Sayer dressed as Bob Dylan.” His country-folk songs also bear more than a passing resemblance to Bob's, but what Gorman lacks in originality he makes up for in charm. A warmly-received cover of Wilco's Passenger Side nicely showcases the pleasingly shaky quality of his voice's upper registers. The world can always use people who do this sort of thing well, so Godspeed, Fraser A. Gorman.

Beginning with Bats, Paul Dempsey plays with the fervent energy of a man who has been cooped up in a studio for too long, dreaming of this moment. He is clearly enjoying being back onstage, but maybe not quite as much as the audience is. At the beginning it's slightly surprising just how much people adore this man and his first solo album - large swaths of the crowd sing along to every word of songs like Fast Friends and Out The Airlock - but Dempsey fully justifies and returns the love throughout tonight's triumphant two hour set.

Dempsey draws fairly evenly from 2009's Everything Is True and its forthcoming follow-up. The new songs are more musically diverse than his previous solo efforts. While Everything Is True was largely built around Dempsey's (often acoustic) guitar, the newer material brings the rhythm section closer to the centre and adds a sprinkling of synths. Tonight's faithfully funky and awesome cover of David Bowie's Ashes To Ashes - rather than something from, say, Hunky Dory - may be a good indicator of where Dempsey is at musically. Fortunately, his wit and literate lyrics remain firmly in place. One of the new songs begins with the line, “The only thing time will tell/Is you to go fuck yourself,” instantly a contender for the best opening couplet of the year.

Dempsey's four-piece band is uniformly solid, but guitarist/keyboardist/backup singer Olivia Bartley (aka Olympia) proves herself to be the MVP. The sweat patch slowly spreading across Dempsey's back makes for an absorbing stage show and we feel like we're getting our money's worth. Dempsey dedicates a stirring and sinister version of Man Of The Moment to Cardinal George Pell. “Fuck that guy. Here's another song,” he says before tearing into recent single Morningless, which is fun, but the baritone saxophone on the recording is missed. It all comes to a close with Theme From Nice Guy, whose la da dadida sing-along is the perfect ending. Dempsey sincerely thanks the crowd and says he'll tour again after his new album is released. It's clear that most of this audience will return.

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