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Live Review: The Waifs, Sal Kimber

17 September 2015 | 2:52 pm | Craig English

"Although Simpson, Thorn and Cunningham all call the USA home now, not one bit of their trademark Australian sound has left them."

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The Perth Concert Hall is one of those special venues that cater best to the stripped-back, broken-down twangs of the unplugged and acoustic — and sometimes a world-class symphony orchestra.

As handfuls of cheery ushers showed people to their seats, Sal Kimber sauntered out on to the stage, gently cradling her Fender Telecaster as though it was the only possession she'd managed to salvage before her house burnt down. With modest dignity, she confessed that she was only used to playing pubs in country Victoria among the loud and rowdy. But she bore no signs of being intimidated by a now thousand-strong crowd in the hall as she sang stories of romance, floods and family in the war over rollicking electric melodies. She took the time to give wistful little back stories that beautifully painted the setting for each song — mostly in rural towns with hilariously unpronounceable names. With so many female artists these days opting for the husky, glandular fever-tinge to their voices, Kimber's raw and ethereal antipodean register was simply stunning to behold. 

Maybe it was because the weather was good or maybe it was because Tony Abbott was no longer Prime Minister. Whatever it was, this Perth crowd could hardly contain their jubilation from the very moment The Waifs appeared. After opening with Come Away from new album Beautiful You, they made a seamless transition into Hottest 100 golden oldie London Still, which suddenly alerted Donna Simpson to the fact that, this being the Perth Concert Hall, she could clearly hear the crowd singing along and consequently encouraged a lot more audience participation throughout the evening. Vikki Thorn made mention of the trio's astonishing 23-year history as they dug hits Shiny Apple and Crazy Train out of the well-preserved vault, satisfying many long-time fans and no doubt winning over a host of new ones.  

Although Simpson, Thorn and Josh Cunningham all call the USA home, now, not one bit of their trademark Australian sound has left them — and they were overjoyed to be home. Their staggering three-part harmonies made full use of the concert hall's lofty expanses, and Cunningham delivered every crisp note on his homemade acoustic guitars with expert precision, complimenting the rhythm section of their touring band brilliantly. The happiness this band carries with them is so infectious, they ought to be promptly dispatched to the Middle East to sort things out.     

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