Live Review: The Bamboos, Axolotl

19 June 2012 | 4:14 pm | Ching Pei Khoo

More The Bamboos More The Bamboos

“We better start being nice to each other – we're all going on tour with this new album!” lead vocalist Kylie Auldist, resplendant in a black figure-hugging dress and an up-do, teases the nine-strong team behind her onstage whom she affectionately calls “my brothers”. With Lance Ferguson the bandleader and lead guitarist and newest member Ella Thompson – who's also the lead vocalist of promising opening act AXOLOTL – the trio front a big, brassy return of The Bamboos.

The Bamboos open with What I Know, off their new album, Medicine Man, a blues-inflected album with infectious toe-tapping rhythm and generous horn section supporting Auldist's soulful, deep-ranging vocals that envelop the craggy surrounds of the Corner. In contrast, Thompson brings a haunting resonance to lead vocals in the album's edgy title track, in which she adds a different dimension that complements Auldist.

Megan Washington, one of the many collaborators on this album, arrives fresh off a plane from Sydney. She immediately amps up the glamour stakes in a navy cocktail dress and demonstrates unbridled energy. Eliza, supposedly written in just 20 minutes, is a sunny, flute-lilted track with Washington purring and thoroughly enjoying vamping up her appeal to the rapturous audience. She follows that up with a cover of James Blake's The Wilhelm Scream, turning it into a sultry, easy version with its pondering lyrics about uncertain dreams but optimistic love, evoking memories of idyllic Saturday afternoons in the '70s spent lying on the grass in the local park with a (professional) brass band playing in the rotunda behind.

Bobby Flynn just starts to warm up with Midnight, his voice somewhat subdued amongst the strong percussion in some verses, but he rises to the occasion in the melancholy chorus. Daniel Merriweather appears at the encore with a freestyle rendition of I Never that threatens to run away with his improvisations towards the end. Auldist more than capably fills in for Tim Rogers (minus his swaggering flamboyance) in standout track, I Got Burned. Her maligned protagonist is restrained, dignified and powerful, as she belts out lyrics that Rogers huskily skits around in the album version. The band dip regularly into past tracklists throughout the evening, including a moving acoustic version of the soulful I Don't Wanna Stop by Ferguson and Auldist to warm down the tempo towards the end of the night. 

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As families go, The Bamboos present a sophisticated, tight-knit, cohesive and generous performance. The well-balanced blend of funk, soul and acoustics that is Medicine Man is a welcome restorative tonic on a cold winter's night.