Posts Tagged ‘The Basement’
I hadn’t been to The Basement for several months before tonight – not since Laneway Festival in March, which was quite a different scene. The place has been renovated, the main entrance now at the other end of the room so that one comes into the club via a rather plush foyer, rather than descending those stairs and coming through those big double doors. Now, on one hand, the renovations are shiny and new, and certainly spruces the place up a bit. On the other hand, they’re shiny and new, and spruces the place up a bit, which seems to contravene everything The Basement ever stood for. I always loved a poster on the wall advertising a 1987 Dizzy Gillespie gig, and dreamed of listening to the great jazz masters in a dim-lit, smoky room, with a glass of whiskey in my hand – sadly, however, government legislation and renovations seem to be conspiring to kill my dream.
But I digress.
Supporting duties tonight fell to Matt Walters, a young chap from Melbourne who seems enrolled in the John Mayer School for Earnest, Scruffy-Yet-Loveable Singer Songwriters. Accompanying himself on guitar (and once on the old pi-ano), Walters still managed to fill the place with just his voice and instrument – always tough when competing with those in the expensive seats who haven’t finished their dinner yet.
His set was a brisk half-hour of breathy acoustica, never overwrought or over emotive, but never really breaking out into anything extraordinary – exactly the sort of thing that the vaguely-knowledgeable music fan could buy for their mothers for Christmas. But not in a middle-of-the-road, sentimental tacky crap way – Walters seems like a really nice guy with nice songs about girls who used to waitress in a small café near his flat in Melbourne.
Lisa Mitchell always seemed small, shy and a little bit scared when she was on Australian Idol in 2006, and I always thought it was holding her back from making the ‘brave’ choices that the judges always crap on about as being essential. And that shyness came through in her stage patter – but disappeared when the music started. Her music is still very much grounded in the ‘shy little girl’ motif, but this Mitchell is using her shyness as an artistic tool, rather than it holding her back.
But as each song is tentatively introduced (bagging Mitchell the coveted Reviewer’s Award for Consideration of Scribes Unfamiliar With Artist’s Catalogue), it becomes clear that Mitchell is bolder than she lets on. Her voice, so quiet in conversation, leaps around in her songs – by turns shy, small, loud, breathy, frail, indignant and strong. Love Letter is a beautiful song, sung solo by Mitchell sitting at a piano, with fleeting moments of Martha Wainwright-esque vulnerability and sadness. Slow is equally gorgeous, if perhaps a touch undisciplined as Mitchell occasionally fumbled her guitar accompaniment.
But, surprisingly, Mitchell is also a band-leader. Playing with drums and bass and later joined by another guitar and a piano, a couple of numbers establish a groove that I was not expecting to hear. So Jealous exhibited a strength in Mitchell’s voice not seen in any other song, building to a rollicking harmonica part from one of her guests on stage, while Edge Of My Dreams and Oh Hark showcased a tightness in the band that will only get better as the tour continues.
But the highlight of the set was, unquestionably, Neapolitan Dream. The opening cascade of notes on xylophone were greeted enthusiastically by the crowd, who immediately got up on their feet and began dancing, stomping and clapping, momentarily transforming The Basement into a barnstorming hoedown.
At 18, Lisa Mitchell is already an accomplished singer, songwriter and bandleader, oozing with potential. There were occasional moments of sloppiness tonight, but certainly not enough to diminish the entire show.
Her music is lovely, her voice full of potential and her lyrics full of pretty images, but it is quite clearly the music of an 18 year old. I’m eagerly anticipating Mitchell growing as an artist, and channelling life’s inevitable hardships and heartbreaks into her music.
I think that could be something special.