Russell Morris certainly crams a lot into a single hour on stage. His Spiegeltent performance on Friday night was a master class in professionalism. Calling on nearly half a century of stagecraft, he enthralled the crowd – most of whom seemed of an age to have followed him throughout the full arc of his career – as he took them on a journey through Russell Morrismodern Australian history from the turn of last century, through the age of the ‘Mollysaurus’, and up to the present day, serving up a generous selection of anecdotes and songs from the acclaimed trilogy of contemporary blues albums that have seen him re-establish himself in the upper tier of this country’s best singer-songwriters.

The selection from his latest album, ‘Red Dirt Red Heart’, really came alive on stage, freed from the glossy sheen of their studio versions. ‘God Loves A Sinner’, ‘Cut You Loose’ and ‘I Go Around’, in particular, showcased a band making the most of the opportunity to fly free in front of such a large and appreciative crowd.

The blues are best sung by those who have lived enough of life to fully experience it, and Morris has definitely grown into a convincing blues voice. It now conveys the full gamut of feeling: from the hard edge of despair in songs such as ‘Black Dog Blues’, where the heartfelt tribute he gave to his fallen South Australian musical comrades Daryl Cotton and Jim Keays gave the performance an added poignancy, to the uplifting exhilaration in hits set listsuch as ‘Wings Of An Eagle’, ‘The Real Thing’ and ‘Sweet Sweet Love’.

Peter Robinson on guitar, Mitch Cairns on bass and the big Texan, Dr. John Creach on drums, obviously love playing with Morris, imbuing each song with an impressive technical flair and a radiant enthusiasm for the material.

Russell Morris is back in town at The Gov in March – and I am sure a lot of people who attended his Fringe show last night will make sure they get there for another dose of Antipodean blues.

The blues trilogy setlist selection – also added were ‘Wings Of An Eagle’, ‘The Real Thing’, ‘Hush’ and ‘Sweet Sweet Love’.

4 & 1/2 stars

Reviewed by Ken Grady
Photos by Ken Grady
Feature photo supplied