“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence” (Leopold Stokowski)
And quite simply, Dan Lethbridge does just that.
Growing up with a father who I think secretly wished to live off the land in the middle of the NSW nowhere, by the time I was 6 I could name every breed of cattle on sight. Towns; Glen Innes, Moree, Goondiwindi, I knew them all, to a back drop of alt-country, folk and R&B. So it’s no surprise that as I listened to the mellow reflections on life and love, (a narrative that has somehow distinctly Australian authenticity), that my mind was filled with images of past.
It took one listen of the up tempo, infectious, I Want You With Me, to know that I had to hear this band live. I waited 3 months for their next gig, the album launch of Inner Western, last October. That night, Dan Lethbridge and The Campaigners, (an 8 piece on that occasion), took to the stage and excited the crowd with an energetic cohesive performance. I’ve said that there are only three musical acts that I would gladly see every performance, well Dan Lethbridge is one of those three. In this incarnation, The Dan Lethbridge 3, is stripped back to bass, drums and Dan on vocals and guitar. I liked them so much I saw them two weeks in a row! Fortunately for me, the band was only half way through their January residency. So last Friday, I again ventured to the Post Office Hotel, different friends in tow, to join some of the other now familiar faces in the ever growing crowd.
Taking to the stage in typically laid back style for the first of two sets, the DL3, had me smiling immediately. The opening song, If You Don’t Say It, with it’s melancholy guitar, drew my thoughts to the memory of a solitary figure quietly staring at the wind dance across a field of wheat on a stifling Summer’s day. Then, my favourite, Close The Deal, with it’s crooning vocal and barefoot slow dance almost 50’s rock and roll tempo. The set also featured,(from the acclaimed 2012 release, Oh Hawke), Hard To Fight, a tale of being on the skids, with its’ typically alt-country ballad guitar and crisp vocal. Added to the mix a great cover of the sombre, Van Occupanther. The set finished with the popular more traditional country, Wish For What You Had, with Dan telling us that, “round and round we go until the end you’ll only wish for what you had“. We were convinced!
A couple of drinks and it was on to set two. Often when a band plays two sets, the second tends to lack something, but not in this case. This set was a mixture of covers, including brilliant versions of Marry Song and Cannibal’s Hymn, and up tempo numbers from Oh Hawke and Inner Western. A highlight, the contrast of the lively almost playful jazz style beat and vocal of, Do No Harm, which contradicts the somewhat sober lyrics. One song I have on repeat. Add, the sing-a-long, Hey Lover and of course the rockin, I Want You With Me.
Dan Lethbridge’s songs effortlessly cross genres from folk to R&B to alt-country and indie rock. His lyrics tell stories and paint pictures. They manage to convey complex sometimes dark emotions yet somehow contain an optimism and often humor, all remain with you. The crowd, at least half being regulars I’d seen at other DL gigs, clearly enjoyed every song. The band, as a trio, was perfect for the very relaxed surrounds. The DL3 perform with an ease, gentle humor and good-natured banter both among the band and with the crowd. Therefore seem very personable and approachable, so there isn’t that appearance of distance between performer and audience that is sometimes evident at gigs.
As we leave and I hope I have at least a couple of good pics, I think, well, if not, there’s always next Friday…..