Luke Russell and his band the Proposition opened the evening with a set of sixties flavoured guitar pop peppered with quirky song titles like My Girl’s Prematurely Grey. The Proposition, who include a Wiggle (Murray Cook) on guitar, show a deft melodic touch when it comes to building a playful musicality to Russell’s songs, shading them in soulful retro-pop colours.
The Nature Strip took the music from the 60s to the 70s with their consummate take on power pop that sounded like a genetic splicing of Wilco and Big Star. Three-Foot High Sissy Bar was one of many highlight with its hints at glam via a rhythmic focus and rumbling bass line that opened up into a beautiful interplay of vocal harmonies from bassist Pete Marley and guitarist John Encarnacao. The twin frontman approach worked well, building variation into their delivery and allowing a wealth of instrumental and vocal melodies to be explored. Mature songwriting of this kind (in terms of craft, not age) is all too thin on the ground which made The Nature Strip an instantly rewarding live experience.
Bryan Estepa released his new critically lauded album Heart vs Mind earlier this year and a number of live shows has seen his band really get inside the record’s songs. Tonight he changed things up a bit, ditching electric guitars and instead utilising upright bass, acoustic guitars and mandolin to re-frame his songs in earthier tones. For the most part it worked well though some of the more subtle instrumental touches were hidden in the venue’s PA. With a focus on songs from Heart vs Mind Estepa brought his breezy vocals to the fore, hitting falsetto and gently drowning the audience in those sweet, sweet chord changes and melodic hooks. The single Sea Change, Overnight and the Neil Young-tinged Come What May all sounded effortless before Estepa and band rounded out the set with a trio of covers in Dead Flowers, a solo and impassioned take on Paul Young’s Every Time You Go Away and a note perfect rendition of Itchycoo Park. Three songs that summed up both the range of Estepa’s influences and his ability to absorb them into his own songs on record and tonight on stage.
this review was first published on The Music