Alt-Country / Americana / Country / Gig Reviews / Rockabilly / Soul

LIVE REVIEW: Lindi Ortega + The Cactus Blossoms @ NSC, Sydney (17/10/16)

ootw2016_lindi420After last year’s cancelled Sydney leg of the Out On The Weekend festival it was always unlikely we’d get another chance in 2016 but we do still get the consolation prize of some fine headline shows by the various artists from the Melbourne event.

Callum Wylie had the task of serenading the slowly arriving punters. Seated on a stool with an acoustic guitar he played a fine set of his own songs plus a parting cover of Guy Clark’s ‘She Ain’t Going Nowhere’. Wylie also name-checked Townes Van Zandt, with those two icons of the alt-country movement clearly strong influences on his own stark and emotive songwriting and a impressive voice that rang out like a clarion call in a mist of sorrow on opener ‘You Make My Tears Fall Like Rain’.

The Cactus Blossoms, two brothers from Minneapolis, looked like they’d just landed from 1950s USA with their button down shirts and tidy quiffs. Musically they completed that early impression with air-tight harmonies, lazy strumming, lightly twanging lead guitar and songs of heartache and dreams. Jack Torrey and Page Burkum were so in sync that it felt slightly disconcerting in a David Lynch kind of way. It was otherworldly and certainly hypnotic, though the gentle tempos meant the songs did start to wash over you as the set wore on. A little more grit would serve them well but they were still very impressive.

On her previous tour, Lindi Ortega was accompanied by only her guitarist but this time she brought her drummer as well. Hopefully the bassist is on the cards next time as he would have added a much needed warmth to the sound. After a tentative start the trio settled in for a trip through Ortega’s increasingly impressive discography. She belted out rockabilly numbers about whisky cocaine, weed and tattoos and then dialled it back with soulful ballads that showcased her ability to work a whole range of styles, positing her as a Winehouse/Parton amalgam. Guitarist “Champagne” James Robertson was the perfect foil, getting bluesy and distorted, shimmering and playful. With the reduced band we got less than the full picture of what Ortega can do but her ability as a singer, songwriter and entertainer was unquestionable.

Chris Familton

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