I don’t live anywhere near Penrith Panthers, but I was prepared to take the trip in order to see Kasey Chambers play with her husband, Shane Nicholson, and father, Bill Chambers, on Saturday 14 June. It was so very, very worth it – starting with the fact that I’d somehow ended up with front-row seats!
Shane and Bill opened the evening as a duo, alternating the lead role – Shane sang one of his songs, Bill did one of his own, and so on. My band buddy loved Bill; I preferred Shane’s stuff. But the band buddy is a folkie – she appreciated Bill’s grizzled ol’ troubadour style.
After a short break they reappeared with Kasey, who was recovering from a cold but singing beautifully regardless. It was a real treat to have an all-acoustic show featuring Bill’s array of stringed and steeled instruments as well as Kasey’s trusty guitar – the beauty of Kasey’s songwriting was exposed. I’ve long felt that Kasey is one of Australia’s greatest songwriters; the test of a good song is usually when it’s played in a stripped-down fashion, and her songs were all revealed as very good indeed.
Kasey likes to chat between songs, and she is endearing and funny and warm. At one stage she made a remark about how her voice must be very hard to put up with for audience members who’d been dragged along to the show. It didn’t seem like a disingenuous remark – she obviously knows that some people don’t like her voice (I know a few) and is at ease enough with herself to not care. What was most interesting about the show – for me, at least – was how the lack of instrumental adornment allowed her to really push that voice and showcase its range. Her voice is fundamentally a very powerful instrument with beautiful timbre, propelled by a mighty set of lungs.
The absolute highlight of the show was an impromptu version of ‘Paper Aeroplane’ (from Wayward Angel). The recorded version of the song features only Kasey and a guitar. On this night Kasey announced that they’d found a piano backstage, which meant she could perform the song in its original form – something she doesn’t often get to do. Shane played the piano; Kasey stood, so still and without her guitar, and sang. The song tells the story of an elderly man whose wife of 62 years has died; the lyrics alone are enough to touch any listener. But it wouldn’t have mattered what Kasey was singing about – I’ve rarely seen anyone sing so directly from the heart, and the notes that welled up from her seemed to have every single person in the audience in tears. Just a girl and piano, but what an extraordinary musical event.
Other high points were a song performed by the Dead Ringer Band – Kasey’s mum and brother, Nash, appeared as Shane exited stage left – and the opportunity for the audience to request tracks from Rattlin’ Bones, and actually have the requests played. But I was one of the successful requesters (asking for ‘Wildflower’) so maybe it was only a highlight for me …
Kasey said that the Sydney State Theatre show in August will be half acoustic and half a band show – if it’s half as good as the Panthers show, it will be an amazing night.