Live Review: Paul Dempsey

7 December 2015 | 4:59 pm | Craig English

"Dempsey doesn't ever need to play with a backing band and, in fact, almost certainly shouldn't."

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Outdoor gigs in Perth are usually a pretty safe bet this time of year, but ponchos were donned and people were bracing for the looming inclement weather threatening to disrupt Paul Dempsey's set. Luckily, it abated before too long and a cold stillness lingered in the air, perfectly befitting the crisp tones of Dempsey's acoustic guitar.

Cleverly stitching together a segue formed around the crowd's jubilant spirits in spite of the ominous skies, Dempsey kicked off proceedings with The Great Optimist, taking precisely no time at all to warm up his astonishingly unfaltering voice. He threw an early curveball with Something For Kate's Déjà  Vu, before treating the crowd to Idiot Oracle from his forthcoming second album.

Unafraid of an impromptu falsetto, Bats had Dempsey singing like his life depended on it, but he bore no signs of fatigue all throughout, thriving on the joy from the crowd with whom he was surprised to see still so happy and unfazed by the cold. Commenting on everyone's wet weather attire, he quipped: "You all look like giant prophylactics..." to which he then swiftly followed up with a dubious reassurance: "... but the best looking bunch of prophylactics I've probably ever seen".

Attempting to cover almost anything by legendary bands like Queen and INXS would be a stretch for most singers, but not a single note in the registers of either I Want To Break Free and Never Tear Us Apart stopped him from flawlessly belting out both. Promptly showcasing even more of his clever lyricism and deft melodious arrangements, the audience was treated to new song Be Somebody, followed by a seamless transition into Out The Airlock.

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By this stage, it was clearly evident that Dempsey doesn't ever need to play with a backing band and, in fact, almost certainly shouldn't. It's a rare privilege to witness a talent such as this, and he has it in spades, shining brightest when he's left to his own devices, removed from the context of playing merely as one part of a collective. There's minimal onstage fuss and no pretence to get wrapped up in — which is not to suggest that Dempsey has an inclination towards either — but armed with just his guitar and a voice to rival a lot of the world's best, he makes an effortless task of enthralling everybody watching him.

After revisiting We'll Never Work In This Town Again, Dempsey took on Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run to close his set, patently unhappy with tackling only two of rock music's most highly revered voices. With fond reverence for such a supportive audience, Dempsey promised to return next year with full band in tow, but here's hoping he somehow manages to lose them on his way back over, because frankly, he's worth infinitely more as an artist without them.