On his second national tour since the release of his stunning solo debut ‘Strange Tourist’, Gareth Liddiard stopped by Marrickville’s Factory Theatre for an intimate night supported by the inimitable Dan Kelly.
It wouldn’t be a Gareth Liddiard show if people didn’t get up and leave. His music is an abrasive oddity with a unique ability to drive as many people out as it draws in. Crouched over a stool with nothing but his guitar and the harrowingly empty Factory Theatre stage behind him, Liddiard reached into the depths of his body of work to present some of Australia’s most uniquely written songs through clenched teeth and closed eyes. From the plucked bass-notes that introduce Blondin Makes an Omelette to the swirling imagery of Shark Fin Blues, Liddiard dichotomized his audience. The chilling roar of the chorus to Oh My provoked a handful of departures where others sat transfixed, both groups equally as confused about the other’s reaction as they drifted apart.
Liddiard is clearly unsurprised by this reception, suggesting in only half-jest that people get themselves a drink before he begins the sixteen minute sprawl that is The Radicalisation of D. Radicalisation is his acid test; a stretched story of a veiled David Hicks surrogate beginning with the downcast quirks of a young boy’s life and ending with the burning buildings of Manhattan, all with alternating bass notes its back drop. It’s by far his most inaccessible and undoubtedly his most powerful. It’s songs like these that prove Liddiard’s mettle, songs full of unrivalled depth and complexity that are endlessly dark and unique.
It’s when he departs from his solo work to address his Drones’ catalogue that the interest begins to build. Liddiard strips back the band’s additions to fit his on-stage stoop so comfortably that it’s almost unimaginable they were ever anything but solo efforts. Songs like Jezebel are incredibly at home under Liddiard’s guard and are just as much his possession as they are that of the Drones. Where Liddiard weaves alongside his band work though, his support act, Dan Kelly, plays as if the band were still there; his SG distorted and echoed, leaving spaces that are never filled. Both Kelly and Liddiard revel in the strange, but it’s Kelly who takes the light-hearted approach with a knack for groove that Liddiard doesn’t even attempt to address. His most recent album ‘Dan Kelly’s Dream’ was a glorious shit-fight of sound; layers of sound effects moaning underneath his Finn-esque ability to craft a melody. Where Liddiard can pull off the strip back of his sparse band numbers, Kelly misses his stunningly crafted cacophonies, coming across as more of a bedroom fiddler than the pseudo-genius he has proven himself to be.
Gareth Liddiard may not be the kind of artist who demands an encore, but that’s not for a lack of ability. His shows are overwhelming; draining in the energy they demand as you cling to each line of every song for a glimpse of meaning. Whether he plies himself to The Drones or his soloist quirk is unimportant; both vehicles have proven themselves to deliver some of the most startlingly interesting songs written in the past ten years, and both will continue to do so…regardless of how many people choose to get up and leave.