Saturday, 13 February 2016

Gillian Welch/Dave Rawlings-Palais Theatre 05.02.16

Missing out on Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings' last Australian tour 11 years ago still burned deep so there was no way I was going to miss seeing them on their return. We were treated to a sublime, spine tingling performance at the Palais that was immeasurabley appreciated by a rapt Melbourne audience. Effortlessly capturing the dark beauty of their music we were kept enthralled by the resonant grace of their harmonies, at times it felt like there were four voices not two. It seemed apt to open with the first track from Gillian's most recent studio album the Harrow and The Harvest, Scarlet Town featured some dexterous finger picking from Rawlings. Welch's voice is remarkable, so elegant and pure in capturing subject matter that is so dark and turbulent. They took the audience on a journey through the dark passages of southern folklore. Wayside Back In Time which appeared on the Soul Journey album in a more fleshed out form is stripped back to it's old time roots and to me is the better for it. Taking a more ebullient turn the classic Rock Of Ages has a beautiful weary feel to it once again the audience is mesmerised by Rawlings playing.

The Way It Goes was a highlight from Harrow and the Harvest and it's even better in a live setting, their two voices soaring in the chorus. The gospel style I Want To Sing That Rock and Roll is also an audience favourite, Dave Rawlings' voice slips a little quietly more to the fore on this song, rather than just harmonising it sounds like a true duet. The swampy Elvis Presley Blues is another highlight, I always loved that line "he shook it like a chorus girl, he shook it like a Harlem queen". The dark and weary Tennessee showcases Welch's southern storytelling and that sense of resignation that seeps through her songs. Hard Times is probably the standout performance of the night, it's a nostalgic view of old southern times and they way she performs it with such feeling is mesmerising.

On Six White Horses the audience is treated to a dazzling display of Appalachian dancing from Welch as she stomps and slaps her knees. In the encore they do a spirited version of I Hear Them All/This Land Is Your Land. The timeless I'll Fly Away leaves the crowd gasping for more as another encore is demanded. The classic Townes Van Zandt song Pancho and Lefty is a gentle end to what was an amazing concert. To see the true beauty of traditonal southern music performed in such a way takes you to a higher plane.

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