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Live Review: The Gin Club, Jimmy Stewart

21 December 2015 | 12:24 pm | Tim Kroenert

"A Sunday matinee seems oddly civilised by The Gin Club standards, but Australia's ultimate band of urban balladeers don’t hold anything back."

It might be inhospitably hot outside, but you've got to feel for Clinkerfield's Jimmy Stewart: only a dozen or so people have shown up to catch the start of his solo set, half of whom are other musicians on the bill. It's the laggers' loss, as Stewart delivers 20-odd minutes of engaging, countrified urban angst, with a gut-full of booze-soaked pathos.

A Sunday matinee seems oddly civilised by The Gin Club standards, but Australia's ultimate band of urban balladeers don’t hold anything back. The Brisbane collective is close to full representation, with Swedish alumnus Ola Karlsson the one notable (regrettable) absentee. This being a Christmas show, they arrive on stage wearing Santa hats; Conor Macdonald, mock-horrified at the fashion faux pas of “all wearing the same hat”, quips that they really should have better co-ordinated their outfits. We are treated to songs from four of the band's five studio albums and there's plenty to keep fans happy, with Brad Pickersgill breaking out the lesser-heard White Smoke, Black Hearts alongside staples The Fall and Campus Blues. (He also observes that these days the band’s Melbourne audiences are better than those in their home town — sorry, Brissie.)

We're a small but devoted audience, happy to wait while the seven musicians perform what band leader Ben Salter dubs "The Gin Club Waltz" between songs, juggling instruments and mic stands for a show that features five individual lead vocalists and songwriters. Sadly, Bridget Lewis doesn't contribute any of her own songs, though her elegant, emotive cello lines are integral, as is Gus Agars’ endlessly proficient drumming. Multi-instrumentalist Scott Regan chips in two of the rowdier songs in the band’s catalogue, Alcatraz and Days, but it’s Salter, Macdonald and Adrian Stoyles who dominate, with Stoyles nailing the poignant pop of Southern Lights and Already Gone, and Macdonald slathering layers of angst on his ballads Capricornia and Brisbane, 1933.

Salter, ever a barometer for the band’s performance, is in good form. True, his trademark You, Me & The Sea is a bit depressing for a Sunday afternoon, but when it ends he kindly punctures the mood with a line from The Simpsons’ Sea Captain: "I hate the sea and everything in it." He goes on to rock the shit out of 2014's Everything About You and Drug Flowers. “After the show, we can all go out for dinner,” he declares. He’s joking, but it’s a reminder that the civilised set time has its advantages: outside, the cool change has come, and the night is just beginning.

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