with Emma Beau and Matt Fell,
Brass Monkey, Cronulla Friday 18th September 2015
There is a certain freedom that the Brass Monkey’s confined space brings to any performance, as the intimacy and design of the venue lends itself to being akin to playing a gig in someone’s lounge room surrounded by friends and family, or so it seemed as Shane Nicholson ran through his repertoire of songs on Friday night.
It was a chance to strip down Shane’s songs to their skin and bones with just his trusty Gibson acoustic guitar for company. There is nowhere to hide on this stage and the thought of hearing these songs raw, naked and exposed is relished by tonight’s crowd. For this show is vastly different to that of 3 weeks ago at the Basement, when a full band and the 3 guest vocalists Melody, Katie and Edwina graced the stage.
Tonight’s show is real and raw and with unbridled enthusiasm Shane announces that his producer, friend and musician Matt Fell will be joining him on stage, almost as if this was also a surprise to himself. Matt Fell is an accomplished musician and record producer in his own right and tonight will play rhythm guitar alongside the artist that he just produced ‘Hell Breaks Loose' for. Matt and Shane are accompanied by Emma Beau who also opens the show with a 25 minute solo set.
Emma’s set is just the right length, enough to intrigue the crowd with these new sounds, but not too long that your interest wanes. She does well with a plethora of instruments to choose from, has a pleasant and powerful voice, melodic tunes and asides from the capo becoming dislodged from her guitar on one her songs her set is strong and the audience is attentive and appreciative.
After her solo set, Emma joins Matt and Shane for the next few hours. What is remarkable about tonight’s show is that Emma has never played with Shane Nicholson and had she not made that announcement you would have never known or guessed it. She is comfortable and clearly enjoying herself playing the banjo, guitar and fiddle with Shane and Matt, who are also smiling from ear to ear, for this feels good.
Free from any prepared set list, the 3 of them take us through a journey of songs from all of Shane’s albums. Songs from the first 3 albums, It’s a Movie, Faith and Science and Familiar Ghosts are particularly suited to this environment. Shane has bought back “Song Bingo” for this show. A fun concept whereby free raffle tickets are put on each table so that Shane can draw a winning ticket out of the hat and the holder of that winning ticket can then request any song from his 8 albums. That is a pretty brave and ballsy thing to do. If you think that is daunting for Shane, then spare a thought for Emma who has never played with Shane and probably never heard the song she is about to play next. Shane announces “Song Bingo has never been a train wreck but who knows, tonight might be different”. Thankfully tonight’s audience is well educated in all things Shane Nicholson which makes this segment work particularly well.
Short Fuse (Part 4) is requested from the Familiar Ghosts album and the accompanying story of how that album came to be and how the recording process differed from other projects was really interesting and informative. Another winner of the Song Bingo requests 'Safe and Sound' which is fun as Shane regales the story behind this tune and states that he never liked it, but plays it anyway.
Tonight’s show does very much have a storytellers vibe to it, where the barrier between artist and audience is removed, with an informal and relaxed approach to playing music and talking about how, why and when certain tunes came to be, and the musicians having as much fun as the audience. This is aptly demonstrated when Shane announces that “We are going to play 'The broken Things' now” to which an audience member named Ted screams out “Oh no – not now”. Shane stops the show and looks over in Ted’s direction and asks “Why not”. Ted replies “That’s my favorite song but I’ve got to go to the toilet”. “Off you go then” says Shane as Ted looks slightly bemused and embarrassed. “We will wait for you so off you go”. Ted not knowing now where or not Shane is joking is encouraged by the crowd that now start slow clapping and calling his name.
Sure enough, Ted trundles off and as Shane, Matt and Emma make some jokes about hoping that he’s not doing a number two, Ted reappears a minute later to rapturous applause. In all my years of going to concerts that was a first for me and so in the moment, spontaneous, good spirited and fun.
Other musical highlights of the night include 'Summer Dress’, 'Secondhand Man' and a beautiful solo version of 'Single Fathers' whereby Shane thanks the Song Bingo winner for requesting this tune as it is one of his favorite songs and is a standout track on the new album “Hell Breaks Loose”.
Tonight has been a rip roaring success! A relaxed and casual atmosphere, coupled with a few whiskeys and a red wine on stage, has made for a good night for all concerned.
Shane Nicholson will play another Sydney show at the Newtown Social Club on 13th November 2015 and will no doubt have a few surprises up his sleeve for this show also. Tickets are only $25 each plus booking fees so be quick as this venue is also small. Until then ….
see more photos here