LIVE REVIEW: The Smiths Tribute @ Factory Theatre (24/09/16)

The Salford Lads feat. Christine Jane

Covering another artist can be either be an exercise in slavish re-creation of their music, an attempt to replicate it as accurately as possible, or an insightful reinterpretation of their songs, adding a new shade, a new flavour to the music. This night was a tribute to The Smiths, in honour of the 30th anniversary of the band’s album The Queen Is Dead and we got both those approaches with differing results.

img_7019Early on Panic Syndrome added a goth-rock sense of drama with ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ being a standout in their set. It highlighted the scope of The Smiths catalogue from rockist anthems such as this, right through to the introspective and moodier moments that would follow. Another band that played it pretty close to the chest but with a real sense of energy and enthusiasm were Mr Blonde. They perhaps best nailed the celebratory aspect of the night.

JMS Harrison and Cabin Inn took the atmospheric approach with an extended keyboard intro of ‘Oscillate Wildly’ and Harrison nailing the lonesome melancholy of ‘Asleep’, one of the highlights of the evening. Sonically they worked interesting textures into the songs, putting their own stamp on the music.

The Maladies tackled one of The Smiths’ most famous songs in ‘This Charming Man’ with Dan Marando putting his devilish and theatrical take on the song, adding intensity and tension to it. That was ratcheted up a notch with ‘Sweet and Tender Hooligan’ before they introduced Lisa Caruso who transformed ‘I Know It’s Over’ into a beautiful and sultry Mazzy Star-styled torch-song , dialling into the core of Morrissey’s swooning and tragic romanticism.

It was up to The Salford Lads (feat. members of Charlie Horse, Died Pretty and Panic Syndrome) who provided excellent backing for singers Christine Jane and The Church’s Steve Kilbey. Opening with instrumental ‘The Draize Train’ they proved immediately that they had a handle on the taut rock and groove-based elements of The Smiths’ sound. Jane showed she knows how to work an audience, urging participation and bridging the gap between stage and audience, something that most other acts didn’t really do. Vocally she was a bit hit and miss, enthusiasm trumping her service to the songs as she sang ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ and ‘Boy With A Thorn In His Side’.

img_7018From then on the night took a turn into the weird and awkward world of Steve Kilbey and his mix of interpretive dance, yoga poses and stage messiah gesturing. It was as if he was in a rush to get it all out, missing lines, singing wrong lyrics, sacrificing singing for unbridled emotive vocal outpourings. It felt like a pending train-wreck and it was only the well-oiled band that kept their set on the tracks. ‘The Queen Is Dead’, b-side ‘Jeane’ and ‘How Soon Is Now’ were given widescreen guitar heavy treatment yet Kilbey went for the grandiose when he needed restraint and spent far too much time on cardio vs audio. The audience visibly thinned during the closing set and were left with a single encore of, bizarrely, a cover of the only non-Smiths song for the night – Gloria.

In all there were some fine performances with only the end of night detracting from the overall success of the evening. Perhaps next time one house band with guest players and singers may have better suited the tribute format.

Chris Familton

SONIC KICKS: Lisa Caruso


Lisa Caruso has been playing plenty of gigs lately, on the back of her great 2014 EP Take A Walk. With her distinctive phrasing and soulful voice she blends folk, country, soul and sophisticated pop music into her own distinct style. Caruso has released a new clip for the single ‘My Romantic’ and kindly took the time to answer our Sonic Kicks Q&A about some of the albums that shaped her musically.

Alanis_Morissette_-_Jagged_Little_PillThe first album you bought.
I wondered if it was The Backstreet Boys Backstreet’s Back or Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill. It was Alanis. My teenage pop phase was real.

f0e5899aacc37252aa993cf2957eb2288a21c270The album that soundtracked a relationship.
Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. I had it on repeat in the car. Mainly at the time of the break-up. It was bittersweet, and good therapy. Still one of my favourite albums.

bluemitchell_1341175757The album that inspired you to form a band.
I was at Uni and Joni Mitchell’s Blue first inspired collaboration. I’d sing songs from it with with a friend that played piano. It was the first time I found a genuine connection with another musician. It was very exciting and influenced my writing too. Then came the rest.

The album that reminds you of your high school years.
I wish I could say Silverchair’s Frog Stomp but sorry no. It’d be the 100% hits series. I didn’t discriminate. The Cardigans, Jewel, En Vogue… I suppose The 90’s did alright with the charts.

51AhynGl12LThe album you’d love to hear live and played in full.
The Essential Leonard Cohen. Hands down. That man! Incredible writing and arrangements.

Bjork,_Debut_album_cover,_1993Your favourite album cover art.
Without thinking about it too much; Bjork’s Debut. There’s something very beautiful and honest about it. I like that the photographs not been overproduced. The sweetness in simplicity! A memorable portrait.

0060249860632_600Your guilty pleasure album.
An album my sister and I will turn up real loud (so we can sing real loud too) on long car trips is Hawksley Workman’s lover/fighter. I started my obsession after I saw him play live. So maybe not guilty. Just a pleasure.

An album you loved but now have no idea why you bought it.
That’s a tough one! The entire pop collection from my teens? Though I still can’t part with them, Ha!. At least maybe I can thank them for the pop sensibility in my writing. It’s welcomed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.49.25 amThe last album you bought.
A local’s! Caitlin Harnett’s self titled. So pleased she is a Sydney-sider. I hear Joni Mitchell and Carol King in her voice and writing. It’s beautiful and timeless.