Tex Perkins & The Fat Rubber Band, Matt Walker @ The Gov, Adelaide 25/3/2023
When it comes to Australian music icons, if Nick Cave is God, then Tex Perkins is most certainly the devil. Obscure, wild and entirely undefinable, Tex has a sound and style that is completely unmatched, but you could describe it as being lulled by his rugged baritone voice straight to hell which is actually a dive bar deep in the dirty south where the only drink being poured is whiskey straight up, and hard luck and heartbreak are on the menu.
Having listened to my Dad’s Cruel Sea albums since childhood, I felt it only fitting I take him along to The Gov to see Tex perform with his latest outfit, The Fat Rubber Band, borne from the great pandemic creativity boom when Tex and long-time colleague and musical enigma Matt Walker joined forces to write an album that would sound like it had been plucked straight from North Carolina, with a heavy focus on guitar, multi layered percussion and harmonised vocals. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this new project, but I was in no way disappointed when much to my delight, the music is still very much his trademark sound but more evolved, raw, rough but instrumentally sophisticated.
Before the main event we were treated to Matt Walker cheekily doing a solo jam with his twelve-string acoustic. One of Australia’s unassuming geniuses (we have a few of those) as well as a successful solo career, Walker has put his magic into so many collaborations and even won ARIA awards, but you wouldn’t have guessed as he humbly performed to a candlelit room of seated guests chattering among themselves and finishing their pub meals. Even still, he filled the space with his soft velvet vocals and multidimensional guitar sound, starting slow with his 1997 track I Listen to the Night (from the ARIA nominated album of the same title) then bringing up the tempo with Lost Ragas track People are Funny before blissing everyone out into a trance like state to final song Morning Star. Hilariously his biggest fan, Tex Perkins came out to enjoy the solo set, smashing a schnitzel and chips, greeting audience members, misplacing his phone and proclaiming his love for the sheer brilliance of his fellow bandmate to everyone that approached him.
Tex Perkins (after locating his phone) then started his set with just Walker and himself playing “travelling blues” track My Philosophy exhibiting seamless vocal harmonies and guitar arrangements. The rest of the band were brought on to ‘fatten up the ensemble” for following track In In Another Lifetime where I happily realised there were not one but two percussionists onstage making things sound even richer.
The set was a good mix of material from latest album Other World, and self-titled debut 2021 album, with the track Place in the Sun notably getting the audience up and grooving which I can’t decide if that was due to the sneaky increase in energy throughout the set, or the fact that the bar had in fact run out of Jack Daniels by that point. The chemistry onstage was brilliant, Tex showing off his quirky and outlandish humour with consistent banter with audience members before performing another song. With the fan-made wind blowing in his hair the lanky six-foot-enormous man handled his guitar with reckless but firm command and delivered spine tingling vocals without so much as a fragment of visible effort. For an artist that has been rocking out for some forty years, his performance and voice has not surrendered.
Tex was kind enough to regale the crowd with some Cruel Sea hits, most markedly The Honeymoon is Over which revived the classic everyone knows and loves with a live untamed spin. After getting everyone good and rowdy, they played their “stairway” (according to Tex, because “it’s an EPIC”) heart wrenchingly stirring track For a Love Long Gone. Rather than leave everyone depressed and ending it there however, they came back out after some cheery encouragement from the audience to play more upbeat tracks Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky (From Now On) and Woman before finishing the night with the very appropriately titled track Pay the Devil’s Due.
Tex Perkins and The Fat Rubber Band are a perfect marriage of incredible musicians who blend organically delivering tight and large sounding heart thumping blusey tracks behind one of the best voices in the business. It has taken me twenty years to come out and see a show, and I was awe struck by its brilliance. There is no denying that anything Tex touches turns to gold and this recent project is no exception. An absolute treat to witness live.
Live Review By Bec Scheucher