Brando, Reeper & Matt Lunson
The 5th CLUAS gig, Isaac Butt, Dublin 7th May '00
With clean-cut good looks, a pleasantly evocative voice and skilled acoustic guitar playing, opening act Matt Lunson could easily pass as a singer/songwriter from next door. Warning! He's actually a Tasmanian Devil in disguise. Here in Ireland his deep, deep down under origins help to set him apart from the usual crowd of solo musicians, and he uses his background to its full advantage when writing his lyrics.
Though his opening song tonight had the ubiquitous theme of love, Matt mysteriously and uniquely managed to rhyme 'been' with 'everything.' The lyrics of one of his best and most poignant originals are based on the true story of an Australian love triangle where two friends fall for the same girl and decide to commit suicide together by jumping to their deaths. Here Matt could have left the audience with a cliffhanger, but settled for a 'coat hanger' instead. Rather than using a rocky outcrop, he stayed true to the real story and had them throw themselves off the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Matt always runs the risk that his Australian allusions and sense of humour could be lost on a predominantly Irish audience. However, the universal nature of his songs' themes and his musicianship more than compensate for any lost lyrics. As if to prove what passion and talent can do for a song he ended his set tonight with a cover of Robbie Williams' 'She's the One.' It can be amazing what a true feel of yearning and the ache of desire in the vocals can do for that song. Matt Lunson often supports other bands; so take note of the fine print if you want to catch one fine performance (Matt also has a song on the CLUAS digital music section that you can download for free).
Though the next act, Reeper, was definitely Irish, the lead singer's coiffure was an instant reminder of another Tasmanian - the infamous comedian Yahoo Serious. For those unfamiliar with the Australian hit movie and rest-of-world cinematic flop "Young Einstein," envision someone whose hair looks like he's accidentally connected to a jolt of electricity. Unfortunately this singer's stage presence, with eyes often focused on the ceiling, face remaining expressionless and lacking any sense of humour, was never more than disconnected.
As for the rest of the quintet, the drummer and bass player managed to stay in the background and one guitarist emitted the shaven-headed cool of Kojak. The second guitarist was left as the sole animated rocker of the group. Thankfully his pelvic thrusts, Pete Townsend windmills, and other thrown shapes helped provide a focal point for the band.
The band itself consisted of highly competent musicians but their music was generally unmoving (decide for yourself - on the CLUAS digital music section Reeper also have a song you can download for free). Each progressive song did improve slightly in impact and by the sixth one they presented a beautifully gentle, almost chiming, fingerpicking intro that eventually led into a nice bit of a hook. The final two songs had even catchier intros and bigger hooks, the last ending with an almost 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' rip-off lick followed by a powerful jam.
Strangely the lead singer utilised a tambourine perpetually trapped inside a white plastic bag the entire evening. Similarly, one felt the band was also closed off in their own artificial world. A good dose of pure emotion and feel would certainly help them break out and connect to a wider audience.
The final act of the evening, Brando, could easily pass as a bunch of accountants if it wasn't for their lead singer, Elton. With his glowing smile, subtle stage moves and longhaired, puppy-dog sensuality this man was definitely born to front a band. It's not just the females who find themselves enraptured by his alluring vocals when he sings songs like 'Cherry Princess.'
Absolutely brilliant live, Brando's music frequently leans towards a Lenny Kravitz-esque psychedelic rock with strong, danceable grooves. Though a solid beat was perpetually present tonight, every song had a distinct identity. 'The Wasp Song' proved that the band can blend both a hard and soft edge to obtain an intensely dramatic effect. Tonight's highlights included the psychedelic love ballad 'Maniacal Mechanical', the excellent 'Moontree' with its melodic electric guitar intro, and the heavily groove-laden 'Highway 69.'
Brando are planning to go into a studio by month's end to record several new songs including 'The Wasp Song.' In the meantime they will continue to play headlining gigs throughout the country.