There are few things more joyous than the buzz of conversation in a venue where punters are waiting for their heroes to arrive on stage. So it was last night at The Astor Theatre as we waited for Aussie country music star on the rise, Morgan Evans, to play his first ever Perth headline show. The mood was up and the venue was filling fast as we arrived. It all felt good!
[Morgan Evans] is the sort of artist that makes genres irrelevant and, based on last night’s performance, he’s definitely a star on the rise.
Starting proceedings, we were treated to a short set from Nashville singer and songwriter, Chris DeStefano. Looking like he’d stolen Ed Sheeran’s tiny acoustic guitar, DeStefano sat down and schooled the Astor audience on his songwriting credits, dropping more names than Manuel dropped plates in the dining room at Fawlty Towers. He’s got some great sounding songs and DeStefano sure does have a great set of pipes, so no complaints there. But audiences can do without the misogynistic pap of songs like ‘Leave Her Wild’ no matter who collaborated on writing them with him. No woman ever needed a man to let her do anything.
Morgan Evans took to the stage to rapturous applause. Asking during his set who had seen him perform live before and who was a first timer, it was confirmed that the vast majority of the packed house was seeing him for the first time. This was a bit surprising given that most of Evans’ set was one long, joyous exercise in audience participation. Obviously Evans’ visit to WA was long overdue.
Starting and finishing his set with, ‘We Will Never Be This Young Again’, Evans metaphorically mirrored the wizardry he performed with his loop station on stage, building each and every song right in front of his rapt audience. Early in his set he even took a moment to explain the technology he uses that enables him to perform solo and still sound like a full band, saying, “There are honestly no backing tracks, everything I do is created right in front of you live on stage.” Like pretty much everything Evans said and did last night, this was greeted with noisy approval.
Evans took time mid set to pay his dues to the Aussie artists that have come before him and whose songs he used to cover in east coast bars, playing a mash-up of tracks from the likes of Cold Chisel, Crowded House and John Farnham. It followed a cracking rendition of ‘Everything Changes’ during which Evans also brought in Tom Petty’s ‘Free Falling’ and The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’. None of the songs and artists he included in his serial mash ups sounded out of place, none of them overshadowed Evans’ original songs. If anything, the audience were less interested in the covers. They got what he was doing, but they’d come to see Evans play his own songs.
Morgan Evans bills himself as a country singer and there’s plenty of country in his songs and performance. There was in the audience, too, with a more than a smattering of flannel shirts and outrageous mullets. Evans leans more to the R&B side of the country palette and his stock in trade is really the catchy melodies and soaring choruses that invite you to join in, whether you’re listening on the car radio or participating in the communal sing along that is a Morgan Evans concert. He’s the sort of artist that makes genres irrelevant and, based on last night’s performance, he’s definitely a star on the rise.
Given his humble beginnings and struggle to make it over in Nashville, as recounted by Evans during the course of his show, maybe he could give a 20-minute spot to another potential Aussie star in each city he visits next time he comes to Aus?