Gareth Liddiard @ The Regal Ballroom – 23/03/2012

Gareth Liddiard and chandeliers hardly fit in the same sentence, let alone the same room, yet on a freezing Friday night I found myself sitting in an art deco ballroom laughing at his rambling banter. Renowned singer-songwriter and frontman of The Drones, Liddiard is a grumpy, husky larrikin distinct from any performer I’ve seen. Before Liddiard came on stage, I was worried that the atmosphere of this giant, antiquated ballroom would swallow him. When he ambled out, whacking his guitar down with gusto and cheekily declaring “That’s four grand there,” I breathed out a sigh of relief. As he powered through material from Strange Tourist and regaled the audience with tales of living in rural Victoria and times on tour with The Drones I wondered how I could ever have doubted that his personality and growling vocals would fill the space. Seeing him seated and strumming an acoustic guitar is a change from the spastic energy he exhibits when with the Drones and the audience is treated to long patches of storytelling.

Although admittedly I would much rather have watched Liddiard up close, with someone spilling beer on me and people crushing in for a better look, it was an interesting change to see Liddiard in a grandiose venue like The Regal Ballroom. The smoke machine, low lighting and red velvet curtains set the scene for his dark and descriptive tales and the audience was transfixed.

The support act, Lost Animal, is a two-piece comprised of singer/sweet beat-maker Jarrod Quarrell (previously of St Helens) and bassist Shags Chamberlain. Already a fan of their post-punk, 80s-inspired funk ballads, I was super-excited to see them supporting Liddiard. Unfortunately, the sound was not fantastic and the cavernous ballroom space didn’t suit them. They played with gusto and the musical swagger I’ve come to recognise and adore on their album Ex Tropical, but I really felt that I would rather have been able to dance and get up close rather than be amongst circular tables of seated guests. The round tables filling up the ballroom and the fact that the house lights were still up gave the venue the feel of a formal or wedding, and unfortunately that made Lost Animal seem more like a backing band than the acclaimed and enigmatic two-piece that they are. Either way, I was happy to dance awkwardly by myself up the back and get excited about their set.

After the gig I realised that the whole time Liddiard was on stage, I had been listening intently rather than analyzing. I wasn’t writing sentences in my head, or facebook- or twitter-readying the experience. I was just listening and waiting for his stories to unfold, enjoying his uniquely descriptive language and beautifully crafted narratives. That’s not to say that I normally go to gigs and sit there documenting the whole thing on twitter or in a notebook but it was a welcome change to be engaged in an acoustic set moment to moment, without thinking about how to describe it when it was over. More than being a prolific songwriter, Liddiard is an epic storyteller and he said it best himself in an interview with The Daily Telegraph when quoted as saying, “I get asked, ‘What’s the muse, man?’ My answer is not being dead.”
 
by Izzy Roberts-Orr

April 1st 2012
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