LIVE REVIEW: The Apartments @ The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney Festival (24/01/16)

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This was a show that had a touch of ‘the artist returns’ about it due to Peter Milton Walsh’s rare live shows and that he is currently celebrating his first album in 18 years — No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal. The briefly one-time member of The Go-Betweens and the Laughing Clowns has carved out an intermittent yet critically acclaimed career as The Apartments and the Famous Spiegeltent proved to be the perfect venue to immerse oneself in the band’s emotive music.

With a band that included members of Knievel, Big Heavy Stuff and The Go-Betweens plus a drummer, pianist and horn player, Milton Walsh was able to conjure up a richly layered sound. You could hear the progression from his early jangly, indie pop songs — that melancholic 80s pop sound — to the songs on the new album that are built on a stronger soulful jazz-noir style where the bass guitar and drums shape the songs. In a musical sense, bands like Tindersticks, The Delines and Destroyer come to mind as comparisons.

Milton Walsh clearly enjoys a sense of the theatrical, from his Bad Seeds’ styled suit and sunglasses  to the melodramatic hand gestures and between-song stories that gave context to the songs and humour to amuse the audience. That same sense of artistic presentation mirrored his songs which detail breakups, loss, departure, love and regret. His ability to paint pictures of intimate moments with poetic clarity and then compose a chorus of only na-na-na’s is what positions his songs in the pop idiom. They are supremely catchy whilst retaining a depth of literary references and emotional gravitas.

Older songs like Mr. Somewhere, All You Wanted sounded sublime while the new album reinforced why it was so important that he released a new record. The title track opened the show and encapsulated all that followed over the next hour — the dark, majestic pop, aching, soaring vocal melodies and equally grand and eloquent music backing from The Apartments. Welcome back Peter Milton Walsh.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Eleanor Friedberger @ The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney (28/01/12)

written by Chris Familton

Eleanor Friedberger only recently stepped out from her regular role in The Fiery Furnaces with last years solo debut Last Summer yet there were no solo nerves evident when she stepped into the late afternoon light of the Spiegeltent stage. Not even a delayed start due to a malfunctioning guitar lead could unsettle her as she set about showcasing some of the highlights of the aforementioned LP alongside some themed covers and dips into Furnaces territory.

My Mistakes set the mood early with its relationship dissecting lyrics overflowing with delightful turns of phrase and clever wordplay. Friedberger’s strength lies in her ability to shape standard song fare into hyper-observant critiques of life and quirky stories of people and places. She balanced those lyrical abilities with her way with melody that sounds both unique and familiar. On songs like Heaven and the brilliant Inn of The Seventh Ray she effortlessly guided jerky, syncopated verses into rolling, hummable choruses that hung in the Spiegeltent air.

With only the one album under her belt Friedberger fleshed her set out with a trio of Dallas, Texas themed covers. Spoon’s Trouble Comes Running, Buddy Holly’s Dearest and Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s Dallas were all given the Friedberger treatment and it was fascinating how such disparate songs could sound so much like her own songs. Between songs there were some amusing insights into their inspiration and meaning alongside tales of an abandoned military base in Sydney, singing on a ferry and her relationship with her manager. What made this performance so endearing was Friedberger’s casual approach (complete with fluffed chords) and lack of pretentiousness when her songs could easily lend themselves to arch literary posturing. She left us with The Fiery Furnaces’ Tropical Ice-Land proving her solo work is easily a match for her greatest moments in that band.

this review was first published in The Drum Media