GRUMPY’S MUSIC BAR
Kim Salmon is a bone fide rock and roll legend, so it’s pretty cool to be able to walk into a venue and see the man himself hanging out pre-show with his mates, band and otherwise. It’s the sort of thing that, if it happened anywhere else, might just cause a riot of fans mobbing the artist, asking for autographs and trying to steal his clothes (more on that later). Not in the mild west, though. We’re so laid back it’s almost like we don’t care. I’m pretty sure we do, but, sometimes, just sometimes, it might be good to squeeze out just a bit more enthusiasm for the legends who walk among us.
There’s something about the rock star who plays from the eyrie of age, has a vast and impeccable back catalogue to choose from and the chops to deliver the goods live that just works.
Of course, Grumpy’s Music Bar, being a big comfortable lounge room, adds to the laidback vibe. It was a great venue for the evening’s proceedings and it’s not too often you get to share such close confines with actual rock stars. I think that’s a good thing, but sometimes oversupply can reduce demand, something along the lines of, “I’ll stay at home and watch Netflix tonight. I can go next time.” I don’t know, maybe I’m just cranky after having a late night on a Sunday, but this was Kim Salmon! He should have been mobbed!
Anyway, enough rumination, onto the music.
The few people who managed to rock up early were treated to a solo set from Melbourne singer and songwriter, Claire Birchall. Backed by a drum machine and programmed tracks, and wrangling a synth as well as a scuzzy-sounding, feedback-driven guitar, Birchall’s set was quite a revelation. Delivering songs drenched in a melancholy redolent of warm baths and razor blades, Birchall’s set mesmerised the punters lucky enough to have finished their baked bean jaffles in time to arrive at the venue to see it.
There was plenty of woozy rock-star chic in Birchall’s on-stage persona and her voice had a distant, trancelike quality that draws a line from Nico to Lana Del Rey, with plenty of stops in between.
Claire Birchall is definitely an artist to watch and I’m looking forward to having a closer listen to her recorded output as well as to seeing what she does next.
On this current tour, Kim Salmon is playing dates solo and with a roving line up. Tonight he was backed by Claire Birchall on guitar, keyboard and backing vocals, Pete Stone on Bass and Todd Pickett on drums.
Kicking off without any fanfare, Salmon and his band worked their way through a set that took in the span of his career, setting brand new songs alongside dancefloor-filling classics. Early on, Salmon set the tone by giving the adoring audience — which had grown significantly since Birchall’s opening solo set — ‘Frantic Romantic’ from the Surrealist days, brand spanking new solo track, ‘Unadulterated’ and ‘Come On Spring’ from his time with Antenna.
It didn’t matter where he dipped into his career, Salmon’s set tonight hardly let up for a moment. Playing off his band of musical compadres, Salmon, sartorially elegant in the jacket he stole from Smokie during some backstage shenanigans in the distant past (“Remember Smokie?” Salmon said recounting the story. “That one’s not in the book,” he continued, referring to his recently published biography), was the bomb last night. There’s something about the rock star who plays from the eyrie of age, has a vast and impeccable back catalogue to choose from and the chops to deliver the goods live that just works.
It was a real pleasure to be able to see someone of Salmon’s pedigree and stature hitting it so hard in an intimate venue. There are few other better things to be doing on a Sunday night. My only complaint, if I have any at all: It would be good to see it all happening in a bigger venue, on a bigger stage, with a bigger audience. Everything about Kim Salmon and his music demands big and I’m hopeful that that’s what we’ll get to see at some time in the not too distant future.
You can catch up on all things Kim Salmon in the Around The Sound interview.