The prospect of Chris Bailey and Ed Kuepper playing a series of mini-residencies – a three week tour, three shows a week, one each in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne at the same venues in each city – is an interesting and intriguing one, even though, based on past experience you know what you’re going to get. When you have Ed Kuepper playing guitar you’ve got a great start and you’re already at least 50% of the way there (and in all honesty probably a lot more than 50%). When you have Chris Bailey there, the initial 50% is unlikely to increase a great deal and a whole lot more likely to take from it.
In many ways the pair ‘owe’ us from the last time they appeared together on a stage in Brisbane – a hugely disappointing Don’t Look Back Performance of (I’m) Stranded, wildly different from any other Don’t Look Back show played anywhere ever in that not only do they not actually play the album but they also omit the title track, arguably their best known song and where Bailey and Kuepper barely acknowledged each other the whole time they were on stage. And tonight starts off excellently; a cover of Dylan’s Ballad Of Hollis Brown with Bailey sounding in really excellent voice. And this continues for the first few songs before Bailey reverts to his more typical role as punk pantomime dame. Some of his between song banter is actually funny, a lot of it is cringe-worthy, some of it’s very awkward, especially when he calls a woman in the audience a slag for making comment on his age, but his worst crime tonight is his need to keep songs going long after they should have finished, long after Kuepper has stopped playing, ad-libbing nonsensical gibberish lyrics: it’s as if he can’t end a song without having the final say.
Unsurprisingly Kuepper’s songs are the best on show tonight and the best received. Car Headlights and The Way I Made You Feel are particular standouts, although to be honest much of the material played tonight is unfamiliar, something that you can sense from the rest of the crowd. This may explain the amount of annoying in-song chat, something that which reaches unbearable levels for anyone wanting to actually listen to the music. As well as the Dylan opener, tonight’s set also includes covers of The Kinks’ The Last Of The Steam Powered Trains and a set closer of Stephen Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns. The only Saints’ songs on show tonight are from the post-Kuepper years; there’s nothing on offer from the classic first three albums and the times that brought the two musicians together.
Mess+Noise, who I was photographing for tonight, decided to cover a show in each of the three weeks they were playing their weekly residencies, one in each of the three cities that the tour visited. I guess when the decision was made, there was an anticipation that playing the same venue in each of the three cities over three consecutive weeks would mean a variation in the setlist, maybe not from night-to-night, but at least from week-to-week. Reading the reviews, there didn’t seem to be many changes over the three weeks, with a core set of songs played at each show. Apparently one of the Melbourne shows did get Messin’ With The Kid and Erotic Neurotic: by all accounts Melbourne also got an amazing Don’t Look Back show last year so maybe they just don’t like playing old Saints’ songs in Brisbane.
As Mess+Noise also sent a photographer to each of the three shows it reviewed, and it was interesting to compare the photos. I was in a slight disadvantage in covering the first show they were reviewing, and even more so since it was under the ultra red lights of The Troubadour. It meant being torn between doing what I considered the right thing, and making all the photos black & white to vanquish the overwhelming redness and make the photos look the best they could, and wanting to provide a website with colour photos. In the end I made the wrong choice and only sent them a couple black & white photos, although I then made the majority of them black & white for my own archives. And of course the following week, Dan Boud covers the Sydney show and does them in glorious and very contrast-y black & white and the photos look really fantastic. By observation, Robert Carbone got the luck of the draw when it came to the Melbourne show, with a venue with good lighting and his colour photos have a fantastic vibrancy to them.
More photos from first show at The Troubadour on Flickr.