The Troubadour is one of those venues that, either by brilliant taste or daft luck, seems to book exceptional acts. Whether they’re your favourite artist or a name foreign to your ears and eyes, you can put ‘money, beautiful money’ you’ll be impressed with whoever’s under the spotlight. This night was a case of one of each. Paul Dempsey; one of the most respected singer-songwriters in the country, obviously better known as the gravelly front man of Something For Kate, but still with a strong (and growing) following as a soloist. And Dan Parsons; a young local bloke with a guitar and dream support gig.
The stage at the Troub looks warm. It’s only a foot or so high, is framed fenced in at the rear by red drapes and bordered at the top with thin red tassels, the kind that hang off the bottom of a rice paper lantern in a cosy but cheap Chinese restaurant. Dan looked comfy there. Smooth strums and delicate picks made you realise this wasn’t the first time he’d played here. The glowing, youthful smile and warm relaxed voice said he had plenty of mates in the crowd. Parsons has the likeable energy and innocence of G.Love and the maturity and comfort of a performer just as seasoned. Coast To Coast is a smooth-rolling, teenage tale of a drink driving stint in search of a girl, that typically ends in disappointment. Dan’s voice seems to ease out and soften the edges of a generally sharp Aussie accent. I’m Nowhere Now is an ultra chill track and gets a great response from friends and strangers alike. Completely at ease with the pressure of such a support slot, Dan Parsons is a definite talent.
Paul Dempsey strode on stage, casually correcting a twist in his guitar strap, his tall frame effectively filled the void between stage and ceiling. For a thin man, he instantly made an impression most bands would envy. ‘Hey guys, thanks for coming’ was enough to make the girls in the crowd look at each other with ‘SWOON’ written all over their faces. Straight into Fast Friends followed by Nice Guy. With gentleman-rocker oozing, the crowd are stunned. Paul made an insightful yet sarcastic and belligerent remark about the State Of Origin being on TV and how he was surprised to sell out the Troubadour, (for a second night in a row) when we could all be at home watching ‘Men chase a bladder around a dewy field’. Touché. Anyone who’s seen Mr Dempsey before will know of his penchant for cover songs. He manages to do them in such a way that you never feel like he’s copping out and playing someone else’s more famous track for the sake of catchiness, and his next tune, Candy by Elvis Costello, is a perfect example. When the final chord rang out he looked to the audience with ‘Did anybody..? No. Didn’t think so. I don’t write songs about candy!’ He said matter of factly ‘But Elvis Costello does. And they’re good.’ With the mood lightened and the sea of admirers now on their toes, without introduction Paul starts the obviously popular and forthcoming album’s first single, Out The Airlock. As it skips into life, so too does the crowd for the first time, swaying and softly taking station on backing vocals. Paul’s are as delicate as they’ve ever been on this one and pitch perfect as usual. The crowd certainly approves. There’s another track before the crowd is challenged to pick this ultra familiar intro-hook; it only takes a few seconds before the realisation floods and Paul realises ‘Yeah, you know this one!’ The unlikely cover of MGMT’s Time To Pretend is awesome. Great song already, but it’s greater with some balls. Two more great new tracks, the titles of which escaped me, caressed our ears before the brilliant, stunning and powerful Beautiful Sharks makes Something For Kate’s first and only appearance. The main set is punctuated with Paul’s soon to be released second single, Ramona Was A Waitress. A jaunty, uppity story about a robot waitress, of all things. ‘Ramona’ is catchy, warm and full of crystal imagery. Pretending to assume that’ll do, Paul walks of stage for all of ten seconds. Returning to the stage, the crowd laps up You Only Hide and falls in love all over again with Paul’s famously gorgeous version of the Kim Carnes classic, Betty Davis Eyes. It’s been said and debated time and time again, but to see a Paul Dempsey show is to realise just how close this man is to being the best, if not, definitely one of Australia’s best songwriters/lyricists/musicians/performers, however you want to put it, it’s undeniable. Paul Dempsey’s solo album Everything Is True is out August 14. Get it, it’s gonna be good.