Live Music + Gig Reviews

Andy White @ Cornish Arms, Melbourne

17 March 2004

It’s been five years since I caught up with folksy, Irish travelling 12-string player Andy White, and tonight’s St Paddy’s Day gig in Melbourne’s musical Brunswick suburb was consequently one that I much anticipated. Back in 1999, Andy had been kind enough to grant musicOMH his first ever online interview – and it was only our third. A night of some nostalgia, then, but I was also keen to see how his music had developed since last century, for I’d not heard his latest albums.

Support act Inish were about as St Paddy’s as it’s possible to be. A waif-like accordionist doubled up as a tap dancer, fiddles and whistles backed up guitars and vocal harmonics, and a lovely mix of balladry and jigs had the audience enjoying every minute.

The Cornish Arms had decked the place out with small candle-lit tables and chairs though, so any hope the worthies of Inish had of a ceilidh in situ were to be dashed.

On came our headline act, Mr White, to use the band as his backing on Looking For James Joyce’s Grave – a song that seemed to last almost as long as Mr Joyce’s Ulysses. I noticed that the years have turned Andy’s hair grey.

Later, joined by his new Melbourne-based live band The Mates – bass, electric guitar, drums and Andy, still sporting a 12-string, harmonica and mic – Andy got his own set proper under way. He seems more inclined to effects, bass line and electronics than before, but some variation in effects would’ve proved useful in the early stages of the gig, for the first four songs all sounded as if they shared the same arrangement. Strange – on CD, shimmering guitar effects are often the making of his music, such as on new song Sunrise. It was probably down to a bad sound balance that upped bass and downed treble, leaving much of his vocals unintelligible.

Still, the veteran performer bounced about on the stage, clearly having fun whatever. Easy banter with his audience and a good mix of old and new songs just about kept die-hards and first-timers interested throughout.

Saving better numbers for later, more rhythm appeared from sonewhere for Get Back Home and other old favourites before Andy swapped his 12-string and backing band for a standard acoustic and a solo space. By this time I was aware that not knowing his recent eponymous and the Boy 40 album was proving a real handicap for me, as many of the songs being performed were unfamiliar. Over the hubbub of merry Irish chatter, it was clear that somewhere on stage was a songwriter still waiting to be discovered.

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