Newtown Social Club Friday 12th August 2016
I experienced a very close encounter with none other than the front man of Jebediah, in the Unisex bathroom of the Newtown Social Club last Friday night. True story. Read on.
Bob Evans, is the pseudonym of Aria Award winning, singer/songwriter, Kevin Mitchell’s solo project. Acting as Evans’, Mitchell’s sound has to be considered more, ‘stripped back’, than his work with Jebediah. Impressively, this understated artist has managed to redefine himself creatively over the course of five studio albums. All of which are independent of the Jebediah entity, which encompassed his original focus as founding member of the iconic, Aussie, alternative rock band in 1994. Mitchell/Evans’ refreshing folk-pop creations translate as poetically insightful and ageless.
In a world of music where sadly far too many self proclaimed, ‘artists’, are resorting to either reality talent shows, gimmicks, plastic surgery, reality talent shows, perfume endorsements, extreme shock value… or reality talent shows to secure attention, Mitchell/Evans continues to command discreetly. His music flows seemingly effortlessly through stunning layering. Be not fooled though, those interpretations of art which may very well appear simple are often the most difficult to actualize.
Such finesse was on display by way of an intimate performance on Friday 12th of August. I brought along my best friend who before this night would not have known who Bob Evans was. I know, sacrilege. With just enough time to make a quick dash to the facilities before the show got under way, it was Jimmy’s down and off we bolted.
That humble trip to the conveniences rapidly morphed into easily the biggest thrill of my frankly, nondescript week. Firstly, I should probably reveal that we were indeed inside a Unisex comfort room. It’s critical to the narrative. No sooner had I settled into one of the cubicles that I heard the sound of somebody running the tap located in the communal wash area. I next heard a random fleeting comment by my best friend linger in the air:
“Sorry… must be so awkward with us ladies in here… it’d be like trying to pee in front of your mum… “
Now I don’t know if it was Jim Beam and Coke bravery, but she felt the need to continue thus:
“By the way, you’re looking real sharp, lovin’ your outfit, whattya call that? Psychedelic?”
And it didn’t stop there either. By this point all I knew for sure was that the person on the other side of my locked door was clearly a man. Well it was only a matter of moments before I managed to piece it all together, just as the penny dropped with a resounding thump for my bestie too...
“Hang on… Are you performing tonight? Wait… your Evans something aren’t you!“
I held my breath and waited, till I actually heard ‘Evans something’ reply, somewhat nervously and with tremendous speed:
“Yes, yes I am… ok, see you later…”
Without a word of a lie, I reckon they would’ve heard me from the Enmore, as all I could manage during this bizarre chance unfolding, from within the confines of a restroom, was to wildly shriek the following:
“OH MY GOD! IT’S KEVIN MITCHELL! DONNNNNA! CALL HIM KEVIN!! CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS! GRAB HIM! OMG!” Repeat. And repeat again.
Apparently legend (Donna) has it that he could not have fumbled quick enough for the exit door, in a desperate attempt to escape the two women who may or may not have presented as a tad unstable, leaving behind faded remnants of his uneasy but diplomatically observant laugh. That’s as close as I was ever going to get to Kevin Mitchell I thought to myself, head bowed. Not so…
A little later I secured my preferred position, absolute front row centre, as Mitchell/Evans and band hopped on stage. I could quite easily have handed him his glass of red, which was thoughtfully placed practically at his feet by the bar staff. I didn’t dare though. After the earlier questionable display, I had no choice but to remain on my very best, and sane behaviour.
These fine fellows looked the part, paisley with a hint of nostalgic vintage velvet for good measure all round. Made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
A mellow set was served to an even mellower crowd.
The decider was to open up with third track off latest album, ‘Car Boot Sale’, ‘Old News’. Good choice. The song showcased the stronger folk side of Mitchell/Evans’ earlier repertoire. Here, Mitchell perfectly reinforced to the audience why he has reached such a peak via his, ‘second self’, Evans, not least because of that ripper chorus. Mitchell/Evans appeared confident and comfortable right where he fits best, in the very realm of folk-pop he has so expertly and uniquely dominated. His four-piece band performed as tight and seasoned as one would’ve expected. Champion guitarist, Ash Naylor stood out for me in particular. His blistering solo during, ‘Where Did I Go Wrong’, a little further down the set was really something. His supportive backing vocals throughout the night’s show were a nice treat as well.
Mitchell/Evans music does not insult one’s intellect. There is an ever-present respectful sophistication relayed through his writing, which renders the listener at the very same level as the artist himself. This strong sense of equality cleverly captured and sealed between fan and musician eliminates any possible divide between the two. Rather, a certain intimacy and greater appreciation is nurtured. Such elements replace any sensation of inferiority to the artist, which at times can properly alienate a disconnected audience. No chance in hell of that last Friday night!
With enough excitement flowing in the room, Mitchell/Evans responded by rapidly discharging a few choice hits in quick succession. A massive group sing-a-long as we proceeded to proudly belt out each chorus to gems such as, ‘Don’t Wanna Grow Up’, ‘Someone So Much’, and harmonica anointed, ‘Nowhere Without You’. There was a lot of love in that cosy space, it felt amazing. Even more so, when I noticed Mitchell/Evans sneaking self-contented smiles, impossibly endearing. His gift for storytelling through song extended to the back and forth banter, and signature lighthearted quips he shared with his attentive fans throughout the night. His modesty shone bright as did his genuine sparkle, emotionally thanking the crowd repeatedly for the warm reception.
Mitchell/Evans is admired for exceptional instrumental arrangements infused with catchy melodies. When at times adorned with sensitive and bittersweet lyrical content, the result is quite magical. As the band prepared to depart the stage, I knew just a moment was beckoning. A stream of lights softly illuminated a man and his guitar alone on stage, as his gorgeous interpretation of ‘Wonderful You’, pulled at the heartstrings. ‘Race To The Bottom’, off the new album followed on. A breathtakingly still and introspective delivery encircled the song’s hint of melancholy… magical.
It wasn’t long before Mitchell/Evans began introducing my favourite song off the new album, ‘Ron Sexsmith’. This again was demonstrative of Mitchell/Evans’ aptitude for storytelling. And as he happily recounted on the night, a tune inspired by an actual incident during an Adelaide show, where a certain brazen young eighteen year old student suddenly appeared back stage, and comfortably entered into uninvited conversation with a perplexed Mitchell/Evans, whilst helping himself to his beer to boot. The vibe in the room at this point was even more relaxed, as the charmed fans enthusiastically lapped up every breath of the tale, when a fan behind me unexpectedly raised his hand as though it were question time on ABC’s Q&A programme. An extremely bemused Mitchell/Evans indulged by way of authoritatively addressing the gentleman and his question much like a teacher would a student. I anticipated a query of value. Imagine my shock when he asked of our most credible artist, if that cheeky young student’s name was Ron Sexsmith. So insulting… I wanted to throw my half empty Jimmy Tinny at his head. However, a classy and good-natured Mitchell/Evans simply uttered an tsk tsk in response, pointer exaggerated in mid air, and politely suggested the man should listen to the song again. Such buoyancy appreciated by one and all. Except for me.
I adored the gentle acoustic guitar picking which punctuates this altogether whimsical song, though for me its stunning arrangement somehow elevates it to enchanting heights. So to have enjoyed it live was priceless. The reference to Ron Sexsmith, applied in the right context, and for the benefit of this strikingly undeniable folk piece, was sheer genius… homage to one highly regarded Canadian pop-folk musician songwriter.
At the very first hint of absolute standout, and perhaps Mitchell/Evans’ most recognizable penmanship, ‘Don’t You Think It’s Time’, the audience could not contain themselves. We literally sang the song for him. In return, Mitchell/Evans could not contain his delight.
Our brilliant journey down a twenty odd song set list continued in fine form. The very first notes to adorable, 'Happy Tears’, jumped off the stage and had the whole crowd bopping along, as though on cue. This upbeat pop tune in its finest form, really is testament to Mitchell/Evans’ capacity to produce such starkly contrasting distinctions between identifiable accents, throughout his entire body of work. A seriously cheery innocent tune, perfect for the young daughter for whom it had been written. Awwww.
We knew the night was drawing to a close, and applauded a special encore as Mitchell/Evans and band returned after a brief exit. We were treated to the heartfelt, ‘Don’t Give Up On Yourself’, closely followed by popular crowd pleasers, ‘Sadness & Whiskey’, and, ‘Darlin’ Won’t You Come’.
As I’d hoped, we were treated to one last solo… as luscious, ‘Stuck On You’, the last track on newest album, implored Mitchell/Evans to tenderly strum his guitar and breathe life into a pure and precious song.
To then end the night with the acoustic rendition of The Buzzcocks’, ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ was simply sublime.
After the show, I introduced myself to Mr. Mitchell as one half of the very scary crazy ladies who’d accosted him in the public lavatory earlier. I apologized for the regrettable spectacle, and all the unnecessary excitable screaming that I felt was necessary at the time, and thanked him for not calling security. Finally acknowledging him in person as a national treasure for his stellar contribution to music, washed over me as a cathartic redeemable gesture, but moreover was a truly heartfelt expression on my part. I was deeply moved by the level of humility and gratitude… and for the sweet kiss on my cheek!
Put simply, an impeccable and incomparable homegrown suburban storyteller. His performances are tasteful, polished and entertaining. If for some reason you’re not already acquainted, you really do owe it to yourself to check out this gentleman’s incredibly generous legacy of music. It would be un-Australian not to do so. And if you haven’t as yet experienced the divine pleasure of attending a quality Mitchell/Evans concert… don’t you think its time?
Mary Di Matteo
see more photos here