Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Craig Westwood - Solo gig...

Craig Westwood
Solo gig
The Public Bar

I’m sure I’ve been to this bar before. It has that air about it. May-be it was the first time I saw Abdoujaparov….?!? Not too sure. The familiarity is all too much. The tables outside of the corner building, the walk in wardrobe size central bar in between the pool table area and the band room, the mosaic pillar and the age old wall paper coming off the walls. You know, seems familiar but at the same time it seems new to me. Maybe it’s described in a book I’ve read. It’s the typical low-key venue that would be mentioned in the first few chapters of a successful musician’s autobiography, when they were struggling at the beginning of their career.

I was there for Craig Westwood on this night. He’s certainly not at the beginning of his career as he’s fronted two of the most kick arse bands previously in Christbait and Dern Rutlidge. Struggling? Well, that’s a hard term to define. Definitely not in the usual way of the down and out musician who’s struggling to come to terms with creating music vs getting a day job and living on two minute noodles for the sake of his art. Perhaps, struggling in the way of a world that hasn’t quite realised the depth and talent he possesses. This, of course, is mere speculation coming from someone who know’s he possesses said talent and knows it should definitely be shared on a more massive scale.

This night is the first Craig has graced the stage performing some of the material from his latest solo release, Seven Songs, amongst others. A collection of songs living amidst the nocturnal side in all of us, a side that seems to ponder the darkness in the world and is trying to get a grip on it living on the edge. Tonight’s setting is perfect. The quiet and chilled area of town where The Public Bar lives, the warm night, the hanging and chatting with friends, though I thought there would have been more punters along for the ride. The room was semi-empty with twenty five or so folk hanging out and listening to some amazing talent. It clearly must be frustrating and disappointing for musicians when there isn’t a large turnout. It certainly annoys me when many people don’t come along to see great live music but yet shitty clubs with repetitive beats gets the crowds… the earth is definitely not rotating on the right axis. Yet, admittedly Craig said after the show it wasn’t well promoted as this was more of a practice gig for the up coming CD launch to iron out any possible creases in the new fabric.

Craig started off by apologizing for his lack of harmonica skills, earlier telling me it was the first time he will be using one on stage, then into The Dead Of The Night, the opener from Seven Songs. Craig, a harmonica, his electric and an intimate setting was enough to capture all’s attention. As I’ve said before, I love an acoustic or solo setting as you can hear the singer’s vocals so much more. The joy, the sadness, the strength, the frailty all comes through with so much more presence and depth. Tonight was no exception for Craig. Usually half hidden by a barrage of riffs and distortion, you could hear the pain, the smiles and even the vibrato as he hung on to those notes. Craig seems quite humbled by over appreciation, not the rock star ego but just a great musician that does what he does for the love of it. The solo setting also showcased his natural ability for songwriting. Although he had said something like he felt his songwriting style and structure didn’t quite tell stories as well as some others but I think everyone always over criticizes their own work. I feel this isn’t correct but his way of thinking could also work in his favour as he pushes himself further to continue to write great material.

Craig played four tracks from Seven Songs for the first part of his set. After The Dead Of The Night was Drinking Can’t Cure, I Could Be Good For You and then finishing with Thirteen, a song originally written by Glenn Danzig for Johnny Cash for his 1994 American Recordings album. Later Danzig recorded for his own 1999 release including it on 6:66 Satan’s Child. It’s an odd pairing, Danzig writing for Cash, but for Cash it has worked. I’ve since now heard Danzig’s version which seems to lack attachment. Cash’s talent for evoking emotion not only in himself but his listeners is much powerful and evident. Craig’s version sits well next to this, although has his own take. I would love to hear a Cash / Westwood collaboration on this track. Their style, their sound and their vocals together would be perfect.

He then traded the electric for his acoustic. The self-confessed dodgy tape up job wasn’t quite up to the task of putting out the sound which was a bit disappointing but luckily as we were in a smaller room we could still hear him strumming away under the power of his mic’d up vocals. He started off with a track that was originally written for Dern Rutlidge / Youngbreeder that didn’t get released and he “used as filler for this set”, Delay The Day. In this setting it was a heart felt song of despair and longing, of self blame and hope.

He then played one of my favourites off his 2004 Craig Westwood + The Godless Few ‘Saturday Night Believer’ album, Body Full Of Holes. After first hearing it Craig told me he wrote it after watching The Soprano’s. You can hear the inspiration, like Tony is always looking over his shoulder or even possibly a gun fighter is having a face off in the middle of a dirty street. A beautifully written number from the somber guitar riff right through to the lyrics… “Will you take me out tonight? I see the stars are burning bright. Would I stick a knife for you? Fill them body full of holes, Lord I know.” Completely stoked Craig added this to the set!

Another Day With You was next up, released in 2002 on the Craig Westwood + The Godless Few ‘Demo EP’. A seemingly more upbeat song amongst this set, but don’t be fooled by the timing. It comes across as a love song but perhaps more from a person standing on one side of a room looking across the other side to another.

Craig again picked up his electric for the final song of the night, Lines On The Table. Released on 2001’s Johnny No Stars, both the album and this single were receiving critical acclaim with Lines receiving high rotation on Triple J, but alas as they say, all good things must come to an end and Dern Rutlidge became no more. As Craig intro’d this more subdued version it received a “yeah” more akin to listening to a Kyuss track and hearing it come out of John Garcia’s vocal chords….

It was a great set. The acoustic’s volume was a let down as it would’ve been nice to hear Craig’s acoustic playing better but other than that a great live introduction to the new material. The official Seven Songs CD launch is Thursday 16th December at The Old Bar in Fitzroy, get on down and support an amazing musician and buy a CD, they don’t grow on tree’s you know!

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