During the late nineties and early two-thousands, You Am I and Adalita (fronting Magic Dirt) were at the forefront of a renaissance of Australian pub rock. Marrying raw and emotional availability with rock’n’roll swagger, the acts have much in common and, having shared a stage on countless occasions across their careers, it was a joy to experience both in full flight on Thursday night at the Gov.
Adalita began punctually at 8:20 sharp, with a wry smile and promising the audience a collection of uplifting songs. Without a backing band, she filled the room with a powerful voice and the solitary sound of her SG, embellished on occasion with loops and some well chosen effects. While there’s a different energy to her solo work when compared with the frenetic power of the Magic Dirt frontwoman who would prowl the stage and jump into the audience, Adalita’s current performance mode is no less arresting. Laying herself bare in this stripped back format the material was consistently engaging and available.
Opening with the plaintive ‘I Want Your Love’, the 40 minute set covered selections from both solo albums while also delivering new material from an upcoming project. ‘Hot Air’ from her 2011 self-titled LP built from a beautifully stark soundscape into something grander, complete with heartfelt guitar soloing over some well constructed loops.
The pace picked up towards the end of the support slot with the new tracks, ‘Equations’ and ‘Private Feeling’, the material demonstrating how this new album will certainly be something worth looking forward to. ‘Trust is Rust’ was a powerful closer that left us wanting more. Lucky then, that Adalita will return to the Gov in December, this time to support The Beast. And hopefully a headline show won’t be too far away.
You Am I don’t need an excuse to tour these days. There’s been is no new material since 2015’s Porridge and Hot Sauce, but for this run of shows the band is celebrating the vinyl release of seventh album, Convicts, whose material comprised much of the setlist for the evening. The last couple of times the band has been in town it has been in the guise of Spinal Tap. And while this show was about getting back to their own material, there remained an element of the theatrical to the performance and a commitment to dialling it up to eleven, made clear as they opened up with the raucous rock’n’roll of a trio of songs from Convicts.
And from there there was also a sprinkling of tunes from across the back-catalogue. Frontman, Tim Rogers was ready with wry banter in between songs, dedicating ‘Mr Milk’ to the lactose intolerant, but for the most part he let the music do the talking. ‘Constance George’, with its chorus of “she’s got soul”, was dedicated to Adalita; Rogers then dedicated Gunslinger to themselves for playing through the jet-lag of having just arrived back from Europe. As they continue to stay true to themselves as genuine rock act, it must sometimes feel like they are, indeed, the last gunslingers in town.
An unfortunate pitch invasion in the second half of the set might have derailed things, but thankfully it didn’t. It was a distracting moment for everyone, not least the band, but showing their professionalism, You Am I regrouped midway through ‘Jewels and Bullets’ building back up from the bass-line to finish the song in big way. With the offender escorted out by security the show rolled on, the audience appreciative of how the band had handled the moment. It also helped that crowd favourites ‘Purple Sneakers’ and ‘Cathy’s Clown’ were there to drive things home, with Rogers’ personal favourite, ‘Piano Up the Tree’ closing out the main set.
Forgoing the pretence of leaving the stage, You Am I went straight into its encore, with Rogers expressing their grief over the passing of Kim Shattuck who had contributed backing vocal’s on their #4 Record. Dedicating ‘Heavy Heart’ to her, it may not have been a note perfect rendition, but Rogers mused how she would have appreciated that, and it proved to be the most poignant moment of the night. They followed up with ‘Rumble’, on which The Muffs’ front woman had originally sung on the chorus, before fittingly bringing the night to an end with band standard ‘Berlin Chair’ that had everyone singing along.
The show had provided the packed band-room at The Gov with an excellent pairing of artists and a reminder that raw and honest pub rock can be something truly wonderful and powerful.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor
Photos by Kay Cann. Check out the full gallery HERE.