The Gin Club @ The Zoo, Brisbane 21 March 2009 Review w/ Hits, Danny Widdicombe

The Gin Club, Hits, Danny Widdicombe
The Zoo, Brisbane – March 21, 2009

Author: Stephen Goodwin

   The Gin Club

Floppy-haired local Danny Widdicombe croons “satisfy me” over and over like a mantra to the accompaniment of a drifting guitar arrangement. I’m in hearty agreement. His voice offers a rough-hewn country charm, but too often his finger-plucked tunes slide into frustrating aimlessness. Twanging excursions into the blues hold more verve, but the aggressive stomping of set-closer My Desire highlights the confusing patchwork of his offerings tonight.

Hits    “Hi. We’re Hits. Not that we have any.”

Hits are definitely the bastard stepchild of tonight’s bill. Wedged between the alt-country stylings of The Gin Club and Danny Widdicombe, the punk-rock five-piece detonates with the percussive force of a psychotic child throwing the biggest tantrum you could imagine.

Decked out from the waist-up as a sailor captain, the howling Evil Dick pilots this ferocious rock rebellion, ably assisted by the killer riotgrrl guitar licks and hair-raising backing growl of Tamara Dawn Bell.

The libidinous dancing of a knot of punters is testimony to the success of the pair and their fellows. It’s compulsive from start to finish. After, I stagger away like the victim of a mugging, something they’d probably declare a success.

Surely no other band could shift through five different lead vocalists in their five opening numbers. This, however, is just another of the ever-growing list of reasons to worship the unique talents of the Gin Club.

Unusually, cellist Bridget Lewis opens with the vocal musical chairs with the delightful title track from their recent double-CD magnum opus Junk. Accompanied only by the six-string acoustic of Ben Salter, her lilting fragility lights a slow-burn musical fuse that intensifies by whole orders of magnitude as the night wears on.

The other six members join them as the crowd applauds. Scott Regan proceeds to take charge with back-porch drinking dirge The Young Boy before Adrian Stoyles takes a turn fronting Girl Kills Man – complete with brassy stabs from a two-piece horn section they’ve acquired for the evening. Conor Macdonald abandons the drumkit to treat us to the faintly funky tones of An Horse until Ben Salter steps up and tosses in a new number as if to ensure we’re paying attention.

And it’s all mind-bogglingly, beautifully seamless.

The new material, written and recorded at a location Salter merely calls The Property, holds up well; hillbilly rocker Shakin’ Hands the stand-out. Sole exception is the lukewarm feel to Death Wish, which appears to suffer for lack of oomph when the band temporarily scales itself back to a five-piece.

It’s a minor quibble as the band swells back to the full complement for a rendition of Gas Guzzler which reaches new heights courtesy of layer upon layer of guitar feedback and dissonant cello that draws almost every punter into voicing Salter’s closing vocal coda.

The evening’s apotheosis, though, is when Salter pulls out all stops for an epic performance of You, Me & the Sea, his eyes closed and his voice throbbing with heartache as it swells around the sparse, strung-out chords of his band members.

The staggering poignancy Salter imbues into a single song leaves the night’s finale in the shade. No mean feat as the band performs a one-two closer comprising perennial crowd singalong Wlyde Bitch and the lyrically intense 10 Paces Away, then returns to encore with Drug Flowers. Even so, as I wander out into the street, I find I’m still stuck on that simple, haunting phrase – you, me and the sea.

Author: Stephen Goodwin