Paul McDermott and Steven “Gatesy” Gates both have wonderful voices, honed and polished over many years of live performance. Each have shown, with DAAS and Tripod, a remarkable ability for three-part harmony, and in particular, a purity and sweetness of tone that (at least in McDermott’s case) often contrasted strongly with their lyrical material. At times, during this show, the combination of these two master singers was so compellingly beautiful that the Fortuna Spiegeltent grew hushed and still.
McDermott’s songs of loss, longing and regret are infused with a deep awareness of mortality following his brush with death last year. Both performers’ skills with storytelling in song were on show. Despite protesting his advanced age and general decrepitude throughout the show, McDermott was energetic and vital on-stage. Sartorially, he’s recently refined his look from “dandy Yeti” to “hot grandpa”; but his unpredictable core of rage and dangerous charisma were still present. Gatesy, forming an understated contrast to McDermott on stage, played gentle accompaniment to their singing, skilfully supporting the vocal performances to shine.
A couple of amusing set-pieces played on the characters of the two singers, and the competitive dynamics between singer and guitarist. McDermott’s ongoing acerbic commentary was generally very funny, although one clanging note was an interlude midshow where both performers made jokes about violated consent and the #MeToo movement – a sour note in what was otherwise an extremely skilful show. McDermott’s discursive ramblings frustrated at least one audience member, who called out “just play the song!” after his spoken introduction forked into yet another reminiscence. Gatesy’s subtle comedy, often enacted through his guitar or through quick-witted quips, was extremely amusing.
There were several stand-out songs on the night: Moths (about McDermott’s mother: “all we ever really want is to be loved like when we were young”); a un-named song about growing old (“We lived too long to die young and leave a good-looking corpse”); Broken Machine (“Oh you don’t matter to anyone any more”); and Stone Crows, an elegy for a friend of both performers, which was written several years ago and marked the first time McDermott and Gatesy ever played together. Gatesy took the lead on a cover of Elbow’s Audience with the Pope. They closed the set with the higher energy Tell Me Now, whose positive message of taking action due to the unpredictable nature of life and death was a more upbeat note to end on.
The show was fairly new, and in some places this showed, with a few wobbly lyrics, fluffed cues and a challenge in running to time; however, the talent and experience of both performers shone through to provide a very strong experience overall.
Unfortunately McDermott and Gatesy were in Adelaide for one show only; however, they indicated a desire to bring this show back to the Fringe next year – buy tickets then for an evening of excellent music.
Fringe Review By Jordan Bell