William Crighton, Melody Pool @ The Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide 19/7/2018

The last time I had seen Melody Pool play in Adelaide was just after she had been featured on ABC TV’s Australian Story in an episode documenting her struggles with depression. In a set of mostly newer material, the song that explicitly revolves around the issue, Black Dog, is played following on from new song Locket showing that she’s still getting through her dark times. Playing bass is Christopher Dale with an incredibly hypnotic bass technique. He brings levity to her set by describing Melody’s musical and technical specifications while she tunes up, noting that this is the first tour on which she has played electric guitar. The occasional “darling” and looking into Christopher’s eyes during their interplay in the instrumental passages confirms that by her introducing him as her “partner” that they are indeed a couple. She talks about her songs as being written in the form of letters and describes a song titled My Heir as a letter to her future children before Love, She Loves Me from her second album closes her set.

Before he begins, William Crighton asks, “Have you had good day?” to which someone replies, “I have now”. He continues, “Jules and I have been married ten years today”. This is bookended later in the evening when he performs Julieanne solo during which she is crouched down almost kneeling on the stage opposite a few feet away poised as though to propose and then springs up and kisses him following the line “I love you to the end Julieanne” which ends the song, a metaphorical progression of the blossoming relationship on stage during the support set. Apart from Julieanne performing mainly vocals and sometimes guitar, the rest of the band is Josh Jones on bass remaining inconspicuous in a back corner of the stage replacing William’s brother Luke, absent due to fatherhood, and William’s musical collaborator Matt Sherrod on drums.

William is a physically imposing figure, his appearance, the beard and the way he is dressed in a coat and boots harking back to the days of Australian colonialism. At times he is like a caged beast, moving about the small stage shouting occasionally as he disregards the microphone to bellow words directly into the audience and compete with his usually amplified voice. The diversions into chaotic experimental interludes such as during the unsettled Devils Tongue are contrasted with the more traditionally structured first song Happiness.

A few songs later, Jesus Blues contains an acapella section with the audience repeatedly reciting the refrain, “I want my money back”. William comments, “If you really want your money back, it’s got to come from the gut” which is quite telling in that even though it is directed at the audience, it is an explanation of how he is feeling and where his songs are coming from. The stark Mr Brown is played solo on a battered almost aquamarine dobro before he is joined by the band and the song moves into the lyrically simple but effective Someone. Following this, as though to acknowledge the seeming anger in his performance and appearance, he barks, “thank you” and asks, “Still having a good time?” Let Love Come First, like the earlier Priest displays Matt Sherrod’s frenzied and violent drumming at the end before carrying on into Fire in the Empire.

There is an appropriate grateful audience response in the opening moments and after 2000 Clicks. The set continues with Dig Your Mind employing a Detroit punk rock style and then Sadness leads into another audience favourite, Woman Like You. The set ends with On My Way, performed by request. For the encore, William returns alone to perform Eric Bogle’s The Band played Waltzing Matilda with a preceding story about gaining Eric Bogle’s permission to perform it. The band, now including Melody Pool, join him for Rejoice, the last song of the night during which the previous hour and half he has played his latest album Empire in entirety and nearly all of the self-titled debut and was well received by the sold out audience.

Live review by Jason Leigh

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