Live Review: Steve Earle

14 April 2012 | 1:16 pm | Craig Pearce

Tonight City Of Immigrants and The Mountain conveyed his views in true poetic and polemical style on immigration and unions.

The Dylanesque folk of Lachlan Bryan has some admirably sharp edges and is country by inclination rather than actual substance. Though Australian, he is North American in aspiration and accent. He delivers a fair tune, holds a controlled tension but is too low key to leverage the drama his music tempts us with. A little less foreplay and some more consummation might do the trick.

At first glance an acoustic duo version of Baby Animals' Suze DeMarchi and David Leslie seems a novel act to support a roots legend. And, well, so it proved. Whilst the pair played a set of smart pop tunes, clearly this was mainstream rock in acoustic translation. DeMarchi's voice verges on histrionic, at times invoking Robert Plant before the T-Bone Burnett-influenced rediscovery of his roots, though lacking the great man's vocal resonance. The pair's guitar playing was crisp and dynamic, if a little fussy. The songs sounded like their true home was with a fired up with rock'n'roll band with electric guitars going wild. Actually, wouldn't mind having a piece of that!

There's a trick Steve Earle has; a total gimmick. It's called quality. He is as solid and integral to USA culture as Mount Rushmore; his voice as resilient and all-encompassing as the Mississippi, with just about as many experiences included its divergent currents. Yet whilst his music and the truths it conveys seem undeniable and often deeply political – tonight City Of Immigrants and The Mountain conveyed his views in true poetic and polemical style on immigration and unions – his intensity possesses filigree and heartache as well: God Is God and My Old Friend The Blues both testifying to the man's unremitting commitment to – and despite it all – belief, in humanity.

Whether conveying the righteous or the romantic, Earle's music has the happy knack of feeling melodic even if nothing stridently melodic is being played. He is a strong man willing to front up to his own battles; from wars of the heart to wars of the world (Dixieland was a triumph) to wars waged against him. Earle is an Everyman avatar battling darkness whilst embracing it through music of passion, pain and joy, lifting hearts and blasting prejudices (with not a little intellect kicking corporate heads to boot).

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