Words by Natalie Blacklock.
Bob Evans is the charismatic alter-ego and solo project of Kevin Mitchell, frontman of 1990’s Australian rockers, Jebediah. For the best part of the last 15 years, Mitchell has dabbled in solo work in between stints with Jebediah as well as Basement Birds (with Josh Pyke) and countless other ‘special occasion’ collaborations with Australian music identities. Late last year, Mitchell released his latest offering ‘Full Circle’, a 25-track retrospective of the past 15 years of Mitchell’s life performing as Bob Evans. Feeling the need to “tie up the last five records in a neat little bow”, this Into The Night Tour presented by Select Music and Catherine Haridy Music Management is a chance for fans and for Mitchell himself to farewell this chapter of his career before moving onto something new.
Perched at a premium locale overlooking the city and valley, the architecturally stunning Old Museum building has lived a number of lives in the skyline of Spring Hill. Once the headquarters of Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association, it became the main venue for concerts in Brisbane at the turn of the 20th Century as well as the temporary locations to the Queensland Museum and Queensland Art Gallery now housed at South bank. Now once again a space for live music and the home to the Queensland Youth Orchestras, this venue could not be more fitting for the evening’s intimate sit-down affair.
Opening up the show is Melbourne-based, South African-born artist Ruby Gill. Relatively new but certainly not an unknown, she has featured prominently on the South African festival circuit at the likes of Oppikoppi, Splashy Fen, Lush Festival and Smoking Dragon as well as Australian festivals, Happy Wanderer and Kennedys Creek in recent times. When Gill started her set, the room quietened as the melancholic indie-pop vibe, brutal honesty and introspection of her lyrics took over. Each song was a bookmark in her life; In Time With The Engine Turning Over talked of spending too much time in the car with someone and All The Birds Under The West Gate, recounted a visit to her ex-boyfriend’s house to pick up her things, but ended in helping him make the only dinner she ever taught him instead. The personal tone of Ruby Gill’s lyrics continued with the brutal Borderlines, an ode to the Australian Government’s *difficult* policies around Bridging Visas.
The mid-set saw a stunning cover of her mother’s favourite song, Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides, Now before the moving Melbourne Cemetery, Stop 115 discussing the feeling of losing of someone close but not able to grieve because of the distance. Following on with self-explanatory I Forgot To Be Profound Today and Stockings for Skating before unleashing her only Australian single, the gritty Your Mum, which hit high rotation on Triple J late last year. Addressing some big-ticket issues including coming to terms with the universal struggles of inadequacy and falling in love with people who remind you of your parents – the relatability of which is not lost on the bemused crowd. Closing with Cinnamon, a song about ‘white privilege’, Ruby Gill’s set feels it like had really come full circle. A solid support set is sometimes hard to come by, and with only one single released, it is all the more impressive. Without a doubt, Ruby Gill is an artist to watch in the future.
Through the almost-at-capacity room, there is a somewhat sombre tone lingering, as the crowd knows that Mitchell will be disappearing ‘into the night’ with the Bob Evans pseudonym until such time where he has something brand new and super exciting to offer after this current run of dates. Earning a reputation as one of Australia’s most hardworking and prolific rock musicians as frontman of Perth’s Jebediah, Mitchell turned his attention to a solo career in the early 2000s. From releasing his debut, ‘Suburban Kid’ in 2003, to reaching breakthrough commercial success with his 2nd offering ‘Suburban Songbook’ and its lead single Don’t You Think It’s Time in 2006 and now with three more studio albums under his belt, it’s pretty fair to say that the distinguished career of Bob Evans has been an exciting one.
Evans emerged with his guitar wrapped in fairy lights and a bottle of Red in hand, looking as comfortable as ever on the stage. Opening with Darlin’ Won’t You Come?, Someone So Much, and Friend in quick succession, there is clearly a pattern in the lyricism of Bob Evans – touching on feelings of loss, desperation and longing for the feeling love creates a relatable dialogue with the audience. Not one to shy away from making ‘political’ statements, the tongue-in-cheek dedication of 2016’s Old News to radio shock-jocks like Alan Jones was a masterstroke. Inspired by the infamous coal carrier of the same name which ran aground at Nobby’s Beach in Newcastle during a storm in 2007, Pasha Bulker (Where Did I Go Wrong?) spoke of the feeling of being lost and alone. As promised in the tour write-up, there were new songs too; Born Yesterday touched on the deep nostalgia feelings of reconnecting with the Perth housemates he moved in as things with Jebediah were really taking off in the late mid 1990’s.
Moving back to the ‘classics’, Evans ripped through the poppy Hand Me Downs and Happy Tears, complete with a whistled bridge. The self-deprecation undertones of Evans’ upbeat songs hit hard with Rocks In My Head and another new track Concrete Heart, calling out people who label those who care about issues beyond themselves as “bleeding hearts”. Don’t Wanna Grow Up Anymore taken from 2013’s ‘Familiar Stranger’ record, reminded many in the audience of their simpler, young existences. As the end of the set edged ever closer, the ‘Suburban Songbook’ double of the emotional Sadness and Whiskey and Evans’ breakthrough hit, Don’t You Think It’s Time struck a chord with the audience as the singalongs became just a little bit louder. The final song of the main set, saw support act, Ruby Gill return to the stage for a duet-cover of American alt-rockers Wilco’s 2009 track You and I.
With simple mention of an “encore” rather than actually leaving and returning to the stage, Bob Evans picked up the guitar again as the crowd showed their appreciation loudly and proudly. From his first solo release, ‘Suburban Kid’, came the beautifully uplifting For Today followed by the stunning Wonderful You. Closing the set, Evans switched to his other life as Jebediah frontman Kevin Mitchell, and launched into an impassioned and stirring rendition of 1997 breakout single, Harpoon. Seeing a full band performance of this quintessential Australian tale of heartbreak is one thing, but in solo mode, this is what goosebumps are made of. Although there is some sadness at the closing of a chapter, the turning of a page and this step beyond the identity of Bob Evans, there is not a disappointed face in the crowd – for this is not ‘goodbye’ just a ‘see you in the future’ from the Kevin Mitchell / Bob Evans camp.
Be sure to catch Bob Evans on the remaining dates of his Into The Night Tour. For dates, locations, and ticket information click HERE.
Friday 30 August – Geddes Lane Ballroom | Melbourne (18+)
Saturday 31 August – Grace Emily | Adelaide (18+)
Sunday 1 September – Grace Emily | Adelaide (18+)
Friday 6 September – Bridge Hotel | Launceston (18+)
Saturday 7 September – Republic Bar | Hobart (18+)