Words by Margy Joughin.
The Soundlounge is the perfect venue to see Australian singer song-writer Bob Evans, one of the greats of Australian song writing. The room is upstairs of the Currumbin RSL overlooking Currumbin Creek. Knowing this room well, in my mind, I envision the punters would be out on the deck pre-show nestled amongst the big gums that overlook the creek. Wrong! … it’s freezing and everyone’s huddled inside with the doors closed or downstairs on the lower deck around the heaters.
The room is busy and packed, and it’s a grown up Triple J audience. Bob Evans is the adopted identity of Kevin Mitchell, founding lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of Jebediah, who along with other Australian bands like Grinspoon, Eskimoe Joe, The Clouds, dominated the Australian airwaves during the early evolution of the national youth broadcaster Triple J.
Tonight’s show is the Gold Coast leg of the Bob Evans ‘Into the Night’ tour. The Bob Evans moniker was created as an effective device to separate his solo performance from that of Jebediah. This a farewell tour of sorts, or at the least to this chapter. The Bob Evans promo states “It has been important to me to wrap up the past, reflect a little, enjoy it and then move forward on to something new, and disappear for a while “into the Night”, but we are assured “there will be music, just that we won’t be seeing or hearing from him again until he has something brand new and super exciting to offer”.
The night opened with first support Kelsey Berrington, a sweet and cheery singer songwriter who entertains the audience with his expertly crafted and performed folk songs. His mastery of the folk guitar picking style provides a delicate intricacy to all songs. He endears himself to the audience with beautiful vocals, melodies and gentle humour. Bob Evans jokes later he thought the audience responded to Berrington just a little too well for his liking. In particular Live and Let Die, stood out, a tender song composed by Berrington on a train after meeting a widower visiting Brisbane for the first time to connect with his recently deceased wife’s home town.
Second support was an extraordinary performance by Ruby Gill, a talented South African singer songwriter currently residing in Australia. Her unorthodox song structures, atypical guitar technique combined with extraordinary vocal delivery of songs laced with wit and humour was astounding. Think equal parts Joni Mitchell, (musicianship and songwriting), Alanis Morrissete (observations on life and love) Urzila Carson (humour and gags) and Katy Perry (cute pop sensibility). In particular her single Your Mum which has been on full Triple J rotation, is incredibly powerful at all levels. Gill describes it as a song about “falling in love with people who remind you of their parents”. The song highlights the pressures and expectations that can be experienced in relationships and the feelings of loneliness and abandonment which can ensue. BTW Gill looks even more at home on the keyboard than the guitar. An incredible talent, I hope her visa issues resolve in favour of Australia.
Bob Evans enters the room, black jeans, blue denim jacket and familiar curly locks. Adorned with an acoustic guitar, which has been dressed up in pretty Christmas lights, Evans walks the length of the room warmly serenading the large crowd, cosily seated at dimly lit tables. The tone for a relaxed and intimate night of Bob Evans killer tunes has been set. He sings to the muse of the catchy opener Darlin’ Won’t You Come?, but tonight it’s the audience he invites on a magical journey. It’s a charm offensive and we are off and racing. Its Bob Evans his guitar, and a harmonica.
Bob Evans has numerous strings to his bow. In the first instance he is an accomplished guitarist, but it’s the superior quality of his hook laden melodies that delivers to his discerning audience. I am not going to hold back here, these melodies are made of gold, and this is a master class. They swoop in and hook their prey. No chance of escape, surrender is inevitable. Secondly, he writes about subjects we know and understand .. loves won and lost (Wonderful You, Goodnight Bull Creek), growing up, old, and apart, (Don’t Want To Grow Up Anymore, Friend), good and poor choices,(Sadness and Whiskey), new and second hand clothing (Hand Me Downs) and living in the moment (For Today). It’s all relatable. Thirdly, his delivery is delightfully relaxed. Holding court is second nature and a loyal crowd of true believers on the southern Gold Coast are putty in his hands.
In the early part of the set, the stand outs were Old News, a personal pop favourite from Car Boot Sale highlighting the sad but universal truth of growing up and becoming the ex big thing. It’s followed, by the Beatles-esq crowd favourite, Pasha Bulker, written about a bulk carrier stranded during a major storm in Newcastle in 2007, which becomes a metaphor for personal stagnation.
And then the hits roll in like a Gold Coast storm. Nowhere Without You, Friend, Hand me Downs, Happy Tears, Don’t You think It’s Time, and Sadness and Whiskey. There is an audible sigh from the audience at the commencement of all these songs, and a low chorus of little voices singing along, particularly during Happy Tears, and Don’t You think It’s Time, one of his most well known tracks from 2006 ARIA Album of the Year Suburban Songbook.
There is a gentle kindness in the air tonight, maybe even love, exuded by the support acts, the audience, Bob Evans and two super fans couple-dancing at the front for a few songs. It’s a warm panacea to the geo-politics of meanness that pervades our lives. Bob Evans announced that the last song of the encore, and effectively the night, is a cover. Yes ! it’s a cover of Harpoon by Jebediah, but stripped back to the man and his guitar, the bitter sweet pangs of this national heartbreak anthem were even more poignant and we sang along with feeling to savour the visceral effect of a fantastic song and a fabulous night out. There are definitely some Bob Evans entries in the Great Australian Songbook, sitting alongside those of Kelly, Finn, Forster, McClennan, Rodgers, McComb & Thomas, and like me this audience can’t wait to hear what comes next.
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+)