Commencing proceedings, Fraser A. Gorman walks out onto The Gov main stage looking not unlike a particular 60s folksinger and cultural icon. While there is some slightly awkward but humorous and endearing banter before and after the first few songs, it is not until later that he acknowledges his appearance, the acoustic guitar and harmonica, his slightly messy curly hair with, “I know what you’re thinking: Right-o Bob Dylan”. The short set mainly consists of songs from his forthcoming album which he takes the opportunity to promote as well as his an upcoming full band show at the Grace Emily Hotel. He prefaces Silence Turns Gold by stating he wanted to write a song with an intro between My Girl and the Pink Panther theme and the song also includes a whistled solo, followed by “It’s jazz… free jazz”. There’s a cover of the Golden Smog song Radio King before Fraser completes his accomplished set with two of his older songs, Broken Hands and My Old Man.
From the start of Iron & Wine’s opening song Trapeze Swinger, timeless troubadours such as Damien Rice come to mind. This is music unadorned by modern instrumentation such that it could be have been played at any time in the past. After this first song, front man (and essentially Iron & Wine) Sam Beam describes the set to follow as “old songs, new songs, in-between songs”. House by the Sea is extended significantly with what seems like free form improvisation, Sam stating, “Sometimes you have to stretch it out to warm up a little bit”. By the time the third song Claim Your Ghost is finished, twenty minutes of the set has elapsed and considering the close to twenty song sets of recent shows, I am thinking this is going to be a long show but the following songs are not quite as long and this does not eventuate. Sam had even joked earlier that there were a lot of songs to play so they were going to play them fast.
Last Night has a free jazz beginning, and during the song drummer Beth Goodfellow is like an old time radio show sound effects person, carefully selecting from a range of percussive instrumentation to play. Sam makes the occasional gracious comment throughout the set to an Adelaide audience that this band truly deserved. The respectful silence while the band played motivates Sam to describe them ironically as a “rowdy Tuesday night crowd”.
Jesus the Mexican Boy was a good example of the type of jazz folk that should be played in a smoky jazz club although the smoke was replaced tonight by the woollen clouds hanging above and decorating the stage. That is to say they could have been meant to be representative of clouds but at times it did come to mind that they were headless, limbless sheep which was thematically in line with the at times subtle religious lyrical content. A couple of songs later, Sam plays three solo songs although is accompanied by the legendary Sebastian Steinberg on bass during the first song Right For Sky, which was followed by a cover of The Postal Service song Such Great Heights and then the favourable Naked as We Came.
Upon the band’s return, Eliza Jones on keys/organ shines with an improvised solo during Muddy Hymnal. It is at this point that Sam introduces the band so I should make mention of Teddy Rankin-Parker on cello and the complementing backing vocals by Eliza and Beth. It would be hard to pick out individual highlights considering the beauty of the set as a whole but of definite significance was the ethereal soundtrack of Fever Dream.
“What’s gonna happen next? Who knows?” Sam asks in the moment preceding Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog) during which everyone in the band seems to be soloing at the same time but the song still hangs together as an ensemble piece before coming to a sudden halt. The set ends with About a Bruise before a solitary song encore of The Truest Stars We Know with the Eliza and Beth having returned from backstage wearing false full beards (referencing the hirsute Sam Beam?), but the humour is lost in the moment of beauty of this final song for the night.
Live Review by Jason Leigh