Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Renderers and Bonnie Prince Billie @ Sammy’s Dunedin

I love the Renderers and cannot wait for their new CD to be available but have to say that this gig just did not impress at all. My first thought was that their sound was rather overwhelmed by the space, but there was a bigger problem - the vocals were so indistinct I could not make out what was being sung. Not a problem with every band, it seems to be a matter of pride for heavy metal bands, but for me the sole point of the Renderers is to hear Maryrose (and Brian occasionally) sing. Their lyrics are what makes them great.

As for the main event, many speak reverently of Will Oldham in his many incarnations yet apart from a two-hour special on Radio One last week, he is almost completely unfamiliar to me. I came away from tonight’s performance feeling charmed and wanting more - I wish I could have gone up to the Penguin Club last night but book club had to take precedence. Several of his CD’s were on sale, but none would be anything like tonight’s gig because his tour band was made up for the event. Ah well, I did buy one CD (in effect got it for free, as I was able to unload a US$20 note that’s been sitting in my wallet) and he says Dunedin is the best place in the country, so I am sure he’ll be back. Plus, a fellow I was with has his entire output in his collection and is willing to make a loan. I am already wishing I bought I See A Darkness instead of whatever it was I did buy.

It isn’t particularly easy to locate his music into any specific style: his voice is generally fragile, he’s pretty literate (which suggests a folk musician) but then his songs can rock. I loved the lines from the one song that Kamila Thompson (daughter of very famous parents) sang: it went something like “You were never very nice to me/You never held my hand/But I want you back”. Longing for something that can’t be had, even if having it isn’t good for you, seems to be a fairly standard idea for him. Or he sings about Santa – we had three Santa-related songs. But my favourite of all his songs was Wolf Among Wolves – yet another song about not being loved the way one is, but with a kind of cabaret style to the music. At one point, Kamila even screamed into the mike.

Instrumentally, the predominant sound was Aram Stith picking away at his guitar - it was mostly louder than any other instrument although every so often the rest of the band would rev up to catch up with him. Least intrusive was Mick Turner on keyboards - he was pretty low key, but providing an important sub-text for the band. On drums, former Verlaine Greg Cairns mostly used brushes, sometimes sticks with felt balls (apparently, they are called marching mallets)- providing a deliciously bassy tom-tom effect. Off to the side, Will played guitar and sang. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone who looks less like any stereotypical musician: he actually reminded me quite strongly of my fifth form teacher or, hell, Gareth Morgan (economist). He did have a couple of mildly distracting physical elements to his performance - a fair amount of bouncing about or every so often he’d kick the air or go up on one leg, with his left foot tucked behind his knee.

But my star of the evening was Kamila Thompson (I haven't found a photo which will do her justice, or I'd put it up - I must get myself some sort of camera). I was leaning against the crowd barrier directly in front of her, and she captivated me. The weird thing is, she reminded me very strongly of someone I know, so that person’s face would be superimposed over Kamila’s and then I’d go off on reveries, trying to remember what the hell her name was or where I knew her from. Then my mind would wander off to another person whose name I’ve managed to lose track of, and I’d start wondering if this was some sort of early loss of memory thing happening to me. But back to Kamila: if she ever gives up on the music thing, I think she has a career as an actress, so long as she plays tragic roles. Her face responded so emotively to much of the music, her lips seemed enormously vulnerable and tender and she’d hunch up her shoulders to look all frail and wraith-like, then she’d break into a wide grin as she and Will gazed at each other. There was a lot of that in this performance – band members standing and staring at each other.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home