Alt-Country / Americana / Gig Reviews / Rock

LIVE REVIEW: Deer Tick @ The Lansdowne, Sydney

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Deer Tick, The Smoking Flowers, Justin & The Cosmics @ The Lansdowne, March 27th 2018

The swagger and rock hit early with Nashville’s Justin & The Cosmics laying down some primal leather and denim-clad rock ’n’ roll. The brothers Collins led the charge on guitar and vocals, the latter showing a fine line in deadpan banter, middle finger insouciance and Iggy Pop-inspired physicality. They had a bit of New York punk and glam, a healthy serving of Detroit ramalama and a nod to Elvis. All in all a refreshing reminder of the power of rhythm, riffs and attitude.

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The Smoking Flowers also hail from Nashville but their sound leaned heavily on the boy/girl White Stripes duo setup. It’s an unavoidable comparison given their makeup, the guitar tones and drumming style. The offered more than that just though, a brace of songs on acoustic guitar and accordion with raw and intimate vocals on one mic showed Kim and Scott Collins’ range and chemistry as they increasingly won over the crowd.

Deer Tick played an infamous show at the Annandale Hotel five years ago. This time around they’ve cleaned up the drunken raucous side of their live show and in the process taken their musicality to another level. Their set spanned their decade long career, from Ashamed, the first song  on their debut album, to tracks from last year’s two releases, some of the strongest songs John McCauley has written. Hope Is Big, Only Love, Don’t Hurt and Jumpstarting were particular highlights that summed up the range and diversity the band has in their music. From ragged punk-tinged country rock to tin whistle and mandolin-augmented folk music and on to gloriously uplifting power pop, they cover many bases yet it all works, coming together like a big, rewarding musical puzzle. Vocally John McCauley led the way with his raspy howl and downbeat mumble but guitarist Ian O’Neil and drummer Dennis Ryan also added strong contributions, the latter endearing himself with Me And My Man, a song about his dog. The wide ranging set wound up a couple of covers in Pale Blue Eyes and a heartfelt version of Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher’s You Are So Beautiful. With the focus firmly on the music Deer Tick are on a career high and judging by the sea of smiles, both band and audience are loving it.

CHRIS FAMILTON

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