In what was staring to look like a residency Tim Rogers played his third show in the snugly surrounds of the award winning Grace Emily in the space of seven weeks. Each of these intimate shows was substantially different. The first was a warm up for his appearance at A Day on The Green with Hoodoo Gurus and Violent Femmes and featured his Tim Rogers band with You Am I band mate Davey Lane on guitar and was a loose as a good ‘pop music people’ affair with lots of covers thrown in and a good time had by all. The second his other outfit The Draught Dodgers were supporting Dallas Crane. The other musicians this evening are both women, Xani Kolac on violin and Clio Renner on piano, and it is clear from the start this evening is going to be something very special indeed.

The only frustrating thing about going to see Tim Rogers in recent years has been his audience. So many of his solo shows or Temperance Union gigs have been marred by rowdy You Am I fans, who can seem less interested in Tim as a solo performer, or hearing new music than they do standing around talking throughout the set until he plays a song they know. It is infuriating for me and I can only assume difficult for Mr Rogers as a performer. So it should be said that tonight’s audience at The Grace were magnificent. You could have heard a pin drop. Quiet, attentive, appreciative, enthusiastic. They were hungry to listen. Thirsty to drink in all the delicious musical beverages so lovingly served by one of this country’s finest musical baristas. And without putting too fine a point on it, Tim Rogers is the one of the very best. In turn, rocker, story telling, raconteur, flawed genius, emotional, vulnerable, impenetrable, cocky, hilarious, introverted exhibitionist. He is like Pete Townsend or Ray Davies. Windmill power chords and laser precision pop songs may have brought him to our attention, but his consistent standard of work through all his musical outings keeps us coming back.

Tonight he is debuting songs from the songs off his new album An Actor Repairs, released later this week. A ‘concept’ album of sorts as the songs are written from the perspective of an actor giving up the thespian life. More generally they are all about somebody having to give up the things they love to move onto the next phase of life. It might be a career or a love, but the themes of loss, resignation and acceptance inhabit these songs. They open with a fragile and transportative take on Bob Dylan’s If You See Her, Say Hello from Blood on the Tracks. A song of longing for his lost love who may now be ‘living in Tangiers’ is one of my favourite songs by Mr Zimmerman. The bed of Kolac’s violin and Renner’s piano leaves Tim’s voice free to take us on the melancholic journey. The next song is I Don’t Care by Canadian singer songwriter Mary Margret O’Hara.

Age (A Couple of Swells) is the first of the new songs and the opening line, “Let’s never ever stop drinking Let’s just have the occasional night off” is met with genuine and warm laughter and like many of the new songs it is tinged with a sadness that Tim delivers beautifully. “Some of those high notes might be a problem tonight,” he apologises, “I caught a little something in Perth. It’s called functioning alcoholism.”. The Umpires Son recalls a young boy following his father round regional WA umpiring cricket games, Tim assures us it is “in no way autobiographical” with a tell tale raise of his eyebrow. One More Late Night Phone Conversation is a lament for those conversations you have, wish you could have or regret you did have with somebody you were formerly close to. When he starts a duet with Clio on Loudon Wainwright lll’s I Don’t Think Your Wife Likes Me, is when it dawns that this is almost folk music. Not Kumbia round the campfire stuff, but storytelling of  quiet intimacy. IDTYWLM is a pretty funny song sung to a good friend whose wife is not a fan of the friendship. Wainwright (father of Rufus) has a great line in songs like this, beautifully delivered songs of deep pain and exposed nerve endings that kick you right in the feels.

As it happens so does Randy Newman as Tim’s version of I Think It’s Going To Rain Today is a perfect fit this evening. When you wake up and you have a song that is an earworm in your head and you are humming it all day and then you realize it’s one of your own songs, Tim wonders, “Does that make me a narcissist? Or just a @#$% ?” before sing Youth. Xani Kolac, who people may know from The Twoks, and is also releasing an EP this week and they perform the lovely single from it Could You Ever Love Me Again. Tim and Xani provide glorious backing vocals for Clio’s version of For No One, one of McCartney’s most under rated Beatles songs.

Paragon Cafe a whimsical road story originally on the YAI Convicts bonus disc Temperance Union EP performed solo by Tim before he had a separate band to play those songs. When somebody yells ‘TUNE’ in appreciation at the start, it throws Rogers somewhat and he has to stop and say “If find it hard to take compliments!” before taking us on that journey down the Hume Highway. It shocked me to think Tim’s first solo album What Rhymes With Cars and Girls was released eighteen years ago, but it’s true. During You’ve Been Good To Me So Far he leads Renner and Kolac on some stylistic side roads (boogie woogie, Stephan Grapelli jazz noodling) it’s bloody marvellous.

Xani also has a CD out this week and she takes lead on Etta James All I Could Do Was Cry Cry Cry. Tim and Clio have some dueting on Up-A-Ways (also from Cars & Girls) at the end of which he has a tech issue with his guitar and abandons it for the rest of the show. “I want to thank you very much for being…and if have seen me before, I don’t say this shit. Thank you for being a wonderful audience just by listening. It doesn’t happen all that often these days and the three of us sure as hell appreciate you listening very much – thank you!” Rogers does seem genuinely pleased to have had such an attentive gathering (it wasn’t the case in Perth apparently). Still he can’t let the moment stay too serious for too long because as he introduces A Time To Be Lonely he explains “This song has a story arch, so might want to listen carefully coz I wouldn’t want you to miss any lines.

Believe me if there is one thing I hate is missing lines.” Our reward for being such good listeners is an incredible version of Heavy Heart surely one of the best songs ever written. After such a warm and memorable evening, we head out into the autumn rain with a warm fuzzy glow to protect us from the elements. Thank you Mr Rogers, very much indeed.

Review by Ian Bell

Set List

If You See Her, Say Hello (Bob Dylan cover)
I Don’t Care (Mary Margret O’Hara cover)
Age (A Couple of Swells)
The Umpires Son
One More Late Night Phone Conversation
I Don’t Think Your Wife Likes Me (Loudon Wainwright lll cover)
I Think It’s Gong To Rain Today (Randy Newman cover)
Youth
Could You Love Me Again (Xani Kolak)
For No One (Beatles cover Clio Renner on lead vocal)
Paragon Café
You’ve Been Good To Me So Far
All I Could Do Was Cry Cry Cry (Etta James cover) (Xani Kolak on lead vocals).
Up-A-Ways
A Time To Be Lonely
Heavy Heart