LIVE REVIEW: PAUL DEMPSEY – Fat Controller, 8th June

We should be very thankful that Paul Dempsey is one of those artists who never leaves it too long between tours (and doesn’t ever seem to miss out on a stop in Adelaide). Whether it’s wth a full band or just accompanied by his own acoustic guitar, in solo mode or with Something For Kate, Paul regularly graces the stages of “the Kingdom” with his diverse range of songs.

It’s also a good thing that he brought the band with him this time, having assembled a fine five-piece ensemble that does justice to the lush, nuanced songwriting on latest release Strange Loop. While Dempsey and his lone guitar is quite something to experience, it’s hard to imagine a stripped down version of ‘The True Sea’, for instance, matching the powerhouse version delivered during Thursday night’s encore at Fat Controller. The slow burning song built to a mighty crescendo of instruments playing off one another, a highlight among a night of quality music.

Having played all the instruments on the record, Dempsey has put together quite band for this outing. Every note matters, delivered with clarity and conviction across the two hour set.

paul-dempsey-2Given the layout at Fat Controller, things were pretty crowded in the audience, but this only added to the dynamic atmosphere of the gig. And a very much at ease Dempsey was clearly enjoying himself on stage, chatting easily with the crowd between songs.

Now with two solo records under his belt, the set list was a very satisfying mix, opening with the nicely swelling ‘Bird in a Basement’ from Everything is True, before focusing on the slightly more expansive material from 2016’s Strange Loop.

Always good for a cover version, this time we got Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’; it was an awesome rendition, particularly the high-powered solo section at the end. The choice was also apt given Strange Loop’s debt to the California sound of the seventies.

Meanwhile, ‘Out the Airlock’ was given a fresh ironic twist, with a tongue-in-cheek dedication to Donald Trump.

It was evident throughout the show that Dempsey is genuinely grateful we still turn up in numbers to experience his music, mindful that this gig fell in competition to the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifier and a few other gigs around town. But when you get this kind of quality performance, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

The lasting impression of the night came from the dynamics of the songs, again skilful handled by the outfit; there were some mighty high points and other moments of quiet beauty – all demonstrating Dempsey’s wonderful range as a songwriter and a performer.

Reviewed by Matthew Trainor