It is now over two decades since David McComb, the intense and charismatic leader of influential Perth band The Triffids, tragically departed from the Australian music scene, and yet his impact and influence seems to steadily become more marked as each year passes.
McComb’s songs have continually graced and enhanced film and television soundtracks over the ensuing years. At last year’s Fringe, Adelaide audiences were privileged to see some members of the original band come back together, along with a host of other Australian musos who had been touched by McComb’s musical genius, as they presented an astonishing tribute, A Truckload Of Sky: The Lost Songs Of David McComb.
This year, a feature length documentary, Love In Bright Landscapes, is currently undergoing the final stages of post-production with a release now surely imminent. So it was timely, and not at all surprising, that a talented group of local musicians, drawn together from a myriad of Adelaide bands, should have got together to deliver a heartfelt set of McComb’s songs for this year’s Fringe.
Brought together by bass player Dave Ingleton (ex-Elephant Talk, The Tonight Show), the ensemble have been practising semi-regularly for about twelve months to get this show ready for this year’s festival.
The full line-up assembled by Ingleton includes Brett Monten on vocals, Dave Weston (ex-Green Circles) on guitar, Andrew Hall on keyboards, Kim Perry (ex-Fiddle Chicks) on violin and vocals, and Craig ‘Max’ Rhodda (ex-Screaming Believers) on drums.
The show is broken into two sets. The first set presents material exclusively from the first Triffids album, Treeless Plain, and from their early ‘mini album’, Raining Pleasure.
The band took a few songs to get their musical bearings together as they worked through Place In The Sun, Madeline and Branded – three of the lesser known Triffids tunes from their debut – but they soon all warmed to their collective task.
An impassioned version of Hanging Shed, and terrific versions of Hell Of A Summer, Red Pony and Jesus Calling made up for some tentative playing on My Baby Thinks She’s A Train and Embedded. Kim Perry also made a commendable attempt to mirror Jill Birt’s droll vocal fragility as she took on Raining Pleasure late in the first set.
The second set focused heavily on the Perth band’s breakthrough album, Born Sandy Devotional, and the whole band seemed to lift for the six songs they featured from this album, delivering a palpably more confident and assertive performance. The bracket of McComb classics, Life Of Crime, Tarrilup Bridge, Personal Things and Chicken Killer contained no flat spots. The Seabirds was also played well, although some of the lyrics did get lost along the way.
Surprisingly, the band’s cover of the show’s titular song, Wide Open Road, was a bit of a disappointment with the lead and harmony vocalists not really in synch during those passages of the song where they had to be in order to deliver its full emotive kick.
To bring things to closure, two songs from Calenture – Bury Me Deep In Love and A Trick Of The Light – were rendered well before the show ended with a driving rendition of David McComb’s 1994 solo single, Setting You Free, during which the band really let loose, suggesting they had been holding back, and maybe had treated the material a little too reverentially, earlier.
All up, this was a satisfying show. Great songs performed by a group of committed players who clearly love The Triffids’ music. Sure it was flawed at times, but the band exuded great spirit and it is a well established truism that the greatest rock and roll is often best anyway when precision is overruled by passion!
Rating: 4 stars
Wide Open Road – Tribute To The Triffids has one remaining show of its 2021 Adelaide Fringe season to go.
Catch the last performance at The Wheatsheaf Hotel, 39 George Street, Thebarton on Wednesday 17 March at 7:30pm
Tickets are available here: Wide Open Road