An album of fictional historical events featuring songs by two of music’s grumpiest men and a narration by an Australian journalist isn’t likely to be everyone’s cup of tea. However, we liked it so much that it sneaked in as a late entry into our albums of the year chart. Even though I had enjoyed the recordings a lot I was curious to see how the album would work as a live performance.
And a performance is what this was, it wasn’t a gig in the conventional sense. There was no support and the entire album was performed in order including Andrew Mueller’s spoken introductions to each song. The musical line-up was Luke Haines on guitar, Cathal Coughlan on keyboards and Audrey Riley providing cello accompaniment.
As with the album Haines and Coughlan sing their own songs, but seeing them play instrumentation on each others songs made the set seem more unified. This isn’t a close collaboration like St.Vincent and David Byrne but seeing the album performed live make it seem more cohesive than on record, especially as Mueller (a bashed gavel between each song) ties the performance together.
The three men are dressed in white suits and pith helmets, their musical underground tribute to the Raj, and this adds to the absurdity of the performance. Performed in character, there are no words between songs, they make their stories seem deadly serious even when they concern Chris Evans, Ian Bell from Gomez or an Australian IRA tribute act.
Luke Haines is in the middle of a bit of a purple patch and his songs on the album continue in the same vein as his wrestling exploration from 2011. He has received the lion’s share of the attention in reviews of the album and it is true that his songs are the more immediate and obviously witty on the album. ‘Broadmoor Delta Blues’ is a particularly enjoyable track and starts the show and album brilliantly.
However, Coughlan’s songs have as many merits even if they take a little longer to sink in. In live performance his songs sound even better, his voice being a striking instrument with some power. Just as on the album it is the contrast between the two artists style and voices that make then set so satisfying.
As a whole the album works brilliantly as a live performance piece and I hope the two artists will unite to present more discoveries from history in the future.
By Dorian Rogers