He’s going to take a while to build the audience he surely deserves, but make no mistake, Ben Wright-Smith will do it.
Playing to only a small crowd of the casually curious must be disheartening, but Wright-Smith did not let on if it was. Whilst running through an hour long set of stripped down versions of songs from his debut album, The Great Divorce, he was in constant good spirits, enjoying the fact he had arrived safely in the City of Churches after a hair raising drive in his old Renault from a gig the previous night in Warrnambool which involved an accident near-miss, and five hours of driving on dirt roads – lost!
Saturday night’s set was delivered by Wright-Smith and his fellow road-trip survivor and guitarist foil, Miles. (Just Miles…’like Flea, or Cher’.)
The duo started off the set with If Living The Good Life Is Easy (Why Is This So Hard), his 2013 pop manifesto declaration of a single, and it was clear from the outset that this was going to be a show chock-full of melody and classic song craft.
Whilst the pared down two men with guitars line-up struggled to capture the total joy of the full band album version, No One still bristled with positive energy and managed to aurally remove the apathetic state of mind of the drinkers at the bar, making them venture over to check out the action on stage.
Commotion Ocean had these new converts up and dancing, as it should have – it is a terrific fizzing, effervescent concoction that cannot be resisted by anyone.
Heavy, Where Do All Your Friends Go While You’re Sleeping? and Hellion Heeled – all album highlights – were delivered with passion too, and enjoyed by the passersby in the street outside who could be seen dancing outside the window in the near-zero temperature of a crisp, cold Adelaide night.
Breaking from a run of original tunes, a stunning unexpected rendition of The Flaming Lips classic, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, was jaw-droppingly good, indicating Wright-Smith could easily make a living as a very convincing Wayne Coyne impersonator, should there be a call for such a thing. He captured the melancholy of the original track perfectly, to make it a highlight of the show.
Dead Man, the penultimate debut album track, was another emotional highpoint, even though he had to call on his reserves of professionalism to deal with the unexpected alien caterwauling accompaniment provided by a woman in a coat who wandered up onto the stage uninvited and assertively began to ‘sing’ into Wright-Smith’s armpit!
The show concluded with a pair of contrastingly different numbers, first of which was the Triple J and YouTube favourite, Sand Grabber, which is destined to be an absolutely Australian classic pop tune in the years to come; and the second and final performance – introduced as the duo’s favourite song – was Harvest Moon, a slow Neil Young waltz which brought more slow dancers shuffling into the room in a trance of delight.
Still with half of his current 52 show Australian tour to go, it will probably be a while before Ben Wright-Smith gets back to Adelaide. His next visit may possibly be on a double bill with Pete Murray, if Adelaide makes it on to tour the itinerary. Make sure, in whatever capacity he makes it back here, that you go along and check his talent out for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
Earlier in the evening, Electric Larry (aka Igor Sukno from Adelaide band, Heinous Crimes) played a set of quiet and introspective originals, sadly often lost however in the explosions of chat and laughter from the bar.
Electric Larry (although tonight that was a misnomer, Unplugged Larry would have been more accurate…) has significant ability as a songwriter. His four self-penned numbers Art Of Looking Like A Fool, Supremacy, Endless Parade and No Time, whilst all well-played and sung, however did sound like they would be better with a full band to bolster their impact, being based, as they were, around simple riffs and chord changes that did not allow for any change of textures in this acoustic form.
Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got To Do With It was an odd choice of cover to throw in, but it worked well in its stripped down context, and was a strangely complimentary lead-in to the final song of Larry’s set, another cover, this time of Sugar Man by Rodriguez.
All up, it was worth braving the cold and heading into town to catch this gig. Pity more did not feel the same sense of bravery and get along to The Exeter too – I get the feeling that the act of not attending may become one of those missed opportunities to have caught a future star in his formative years, and the chance to say, ‘I saw him before he was a star…!’
Ben Wright-Smith played The Exeter Hotel on Saturday 3 June.
His album The Great Divorce is reviewed HERE