Saturday, August 31, 2013

Singing Blind Boy Grunt

In my utopia (which would be a fabulous, and utopian sort of place), let us call it Tomton, I would promulgate many nifty and pleasant laws. One of my plans would see the end of large music companies controlling the art, ripping off the punter and the artist simultaneously. In this utopia musicians would be ubiquitous, hearing live music would be as simple as hanging out with one's friends enjoying good food and drink while playing and singing along. Indeed this would be true for all artists, for once the profit motive is removed history (and art) can begin, as we move out of the realm of barbarism.

So in a world short of this goal, I can find a similar form with support for intimate venues, and for musicians who are able to adapt and thrive in such an environment. One of the great drivers of intimacy, this is true for all arts, and assumes that love is a type of art, is passion. Passion for the music and passion for relationship with the audience.

So it was, with old fashioned utopian ideals in my head, that my wife and I went to see the Brewster Brothers play Bob Dylan at the Sorell Memorial Hall. Tasmania has just had the hottest July temperatures on record; it was hoped that the band would, as well, give us a hot time. The crowd was not disappointed.

The hall was well laid out, and a sold out crowd had gathered for the show. After a few minutes of settling down time, getting a beer and hand shaking and saying hello time, the first act started.

It seemed fitting that in a night of Bob Dylan's music we would start off with a singer-songwriter. Local Tasmanian boy made good Timothy Slater began the evening. The field of singer-songwriters is a crowded one, and this is a field where it is difficult to break new ground, where it is difficult to please a jaded audience who have heard it all. From our boy Dylan, to Paul Kelly, to Joni Mitchell this is a crowded group of talented artists. And too often one will hear the singer being more of an entertainer than an artist. The artist can be entertaining, but the one who is primarily an entertainer will not be an artist.

Luckily Timothy filled both roles. Talented and a good strong singer he did entertain and hold the crowds attention. Not always the easiest task for the supporting role. The best way to gain the attention of an audience who is expecting long time heroes is with honesty. Here the songs of Timothy Slater won over, if not the entire crowd, at least myself and the others sitting around me. With a smooth style, with a nice roll of patter between songs, and with songs that obviously spoke to and through the singer the crowd was more than won over. As a final touch he brought out his sister, local hairdresser Felicity to sing with him. The crowd went wild with the harmonies that only family can create.

So after a break for a beer and a chat, we all took our seats waiting for the main act to appear. As a long time Dylan fan (my sister took me to my first concert, Bob Dylan, way back in 1975) I was expecting for the Brewster Brothers to disappoint. Being a Dylan fan is that uniquely snobby sort of activity. I am only too happy to admit that I was not disappointed in the least. Apart from some technical issues with speakers that most of the audience did not even notice, the two sets played by the Brewster Brothers went down a treat with the locals. The cynic would say that rural Tasmanian audiences are starved for excitement and would enjoy anything that got upon stage. This is of course a lie and a slander.

While not quite capturing the breathless, flexible style of Dylan's singing, (and really who can?) Rick Brewster did a very good job of generating the warmth and depth of Dylan's lyrics. Passion and honesty are the hallmarks of any true musician. In this performance we could feel the affection that the Brewster's have for the music of Bob Dylan, and this affection came across to the audience. And from this affection came the honesty and the passion that allows for strong performances. Indeed there is little that is more deary for an audience than to hear musicians going through the motions, mentally calculating what will be done with their paycheck. There was none of this boredom from either act.

The second set of the Brewster Brothers was peppered with songs of The Angels. Whether it was due to the crowd knowing the songs better, or the extra beer and wine that had flowed, the audience spent the second set dancing in their seats, singing along and generally acting up. While I can not speak for the entire audience I can say that for this show I was not disappointed and that I happily got my money's worth. I am ready for another such evening. Maybe an evening of the Brewster Brother's singing the songs that influenced Bob Dylan? Is that Hank William's “Your Cheating Heart” that I can hear blowing in the wind?

The photograph was taken from the Blue Note Productions Facebook site

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