Del Amitri, Darren Middleton @ Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide 18/2/2023
The last time Del Amitri played Adelaide, it was 1990, with two shows at, would you believe, The Old Lion Hotel in North Adelaide. The Scottish band formed in 1980 and their 1989 second L.P. Waking Hours was a big hit in Australia, helped along by the singles Kiss This Thing Goodbye and Nothing Ever Happens. The band went on to release six albums before a ten-year hiatus between 2003 and 2013. 2021 saw the release of their latest album Fatal Mistakes, a collection of songs as good if not better than anything they had released previously. A certain bug stopped the band from touring the album, but finally we got to see Del Amitri again.
Ex-Powderfinger guitarist, Darren Middleton was supporting act for Del Amitri. Armed with only a guitar and his voice, Darren soon won the crowd over with his playing, songs and stories. The songs came from his solo albums, Tides, Splinters and Translations starting with One Thing and Return. Darren promised us he wouldn’t talk too much between songs, as he had limited time and the seven-song set list would be only three if he did. But talk he did, explaining the story behind song and promising a Powderfinger song if he had time. He didn’t, but it wasn’t needed, as the quality of the songs he did play more than made up for a Powderfinger song. A first-class musician, a first-class performance.
Del Amitri started their set acoustically with When You Were Young, with singer Justin Currie, looking the rock star part being dressed all in denim, and Iain Harvie only playing the song. A perfect start to the evening.
Song two got loud, as everyone plugged in for Musicians and Beer from their latest album Fatal Mistakes. And to prove the band were not afraid to present new songs to the audience they doubled it up with All Hail Blind Love from the same album. In fact, there were more songs from their latest album than any of their other albums tonight.
It was only after the sixth song, the 1989 Australian hit Kiss This Thing Goodbye that Justin acknowledged the audience with a “Been a long time. Thank you. Hullo”. This was to be about the only acknowledgement we got all evening. The band let the music do the talking. A piano according came out for Mockingbird, Copy Me Now, another good song from the latest album and the audience gave a loud cheer for Driving with the Brakes On and Move Away Jimmy Blue, justifiably so as, Jimmy Blue was an evening highlight.
With the band heading towards the end of the main set, everything stepped up another notch. Tell Her This moved on to the haunting Lonely (yet another great new song), then to the powerful closing duo of Spit in the Rain and Stone Cold Sober, both from the Waking Hours album. Guitars were loud and played in unison, coming to a final loud ending.
The crowd may have been small but they were loud and Del Amitri soon returned for an encore, starting with a moving, acoustic version of Empty, played mainly just with a piano. A strange choice of song in Gone in a Second came next, from an album of Fatal Mistakes: Outtakes & B Sides and it could have been a bad move, but no, it turned out to be one the highlights of the night, even after Justin told us “Thanks for sitting through that. Were we out of tune?” to which a band member said “yes”. It was electric.
As good as the song is, and popular, Nothing Every Happens felt out of place in the encore as the songs around it were just so much better. But I guess you have to play “the hit” in the encore. I’m So Scared of Dying, yes, another from the latest album, (is there a pattern here?) was THE highlight of the night. Sounding a little like a Neil Young outtake in places, it was just superb. The band then downed instruments for the evening, except for Andy Alston and his accordion and the final song Be My Downfall echoed around the theatre.
A quick band intro from Justin followed, with only “That’s Andy, that’s Jim, that’s Kris, that’s Iain and I’m Justin”, and the band did a curtain fall and were gone.
Predictably the hits received the loudest cheers for the evening but for me it was the songs off the new album that shone. Traditionally it can be a bad move for a band to concentrate on newer material, but this evening it worked nicely for Del Amitri.
Live Review By Geoff Jenke