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Live Review: Paul Dempsey, RO

15 November 2018 | 1:21 pm | Craig English

“None of you have heard that, by the way. I wrote it three days ago."

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The stunning wooden textures of the Melbourne Recital Centre create the feeling of being nestled inside a giant carved out sequoia tree. It’s a perfect setting for Ro, who thanks the audience for making their way inside to see her despite it still being quite light outside, after which the lights dim even further, evoking the warmth in her voice. A wonderfully talented multi-instrumentalist tonight armed only with her guitar, she delivers funny and ruminant personal tales over complex but catchy melodies.

It’s a full house tonight for one of Australia’s most beloved musicians. Paul Dempsey greets the audience by thanking them for coming out to see him at the Corner Hotel, a bizarrely left-field joke but it earns him plenty of laughter nonetheless. Bird In A Basement kicks off proceedings and the acoustics of the Recital Centre come alive. Dempsey is in faultless voice this evening, as with most any evening he plays. This continues through Have You Fallen Out Of Love? and Blindspot before he treats us all to a song that, lyrically, does sound very much like something Dempsey would write. Sure enough, he assures us all, “None of you have heard that, by the way. I wrote it three days ago,” and one wonders if we might be treated to more new material as the night goes on.

Volunteers is followed by Dempsey’s scathing rebuke of all contemplative practices, Strange Loop. They enthral an already utterly satisfied audience, but he still treats us to another new song that he informs us is new Something For Kate material. With fellow bandmates Stephanie Ashworth and Clint Hyndman lurking in the venue, and given Dempsey’s generosity with new material thus far, it wouldn’t be too surprising if he gets them both up there at some point. But, there are limits, even in a solo Paul Dempsey gig.

This really isn’t evident though, given the stunning ability Dempsey has to single-handedly command the energy of an entire band with just an acoustic guitar and a voice that seems to span eleven octaves. Morningless is a great example of this, as Dempsey belts out the high notes without faltering while giving his guitar a thrashing it’ll never forget.

Ro accompanies Dempsey on stage to provide gorgeous violin and vocal accompaniment to another new song before he really ups the ante by delivering a masterful cover of David Bowie’s Life On Mars. After working through more solo and SFK hits, and being rapturously welcomed back for an encore, he blows the roof clean off the Recital Centre with a stunning cover of Sam Brown’s 1988 hit Stop followed by some audience participation in Theme From Nice Guy to close off a set by arguably Australia’s most talented male artist. See you soon at the actual Corner Hotel, Paul!