Its always amazing to see the backing bands of jet setting solo artists, a group of musicians who at the drop of a hat can just pick up a set of songs and play them like they've been playing them all their lives. Most of Mark's set tonight is of fairly melancholic plodding numbers with an alt-country twinge, all reverb laden guitars and low booming vocals, very reminiscent of the headliners former outfit. The skill of the musicians around him brings out Mark's songs, lifting them from a middle of the road rut they could easily fall into. Towards the end of the set Mark takes a strange change in direction and adds in some 'novelty' songs that don't sit well in the mix, like someone trying to tell jokes who just isn't funny, it makes the audience squirm and exchange awkward glances, they weren't necessary and Mark loses a little kudos for doing it.
Perhaps Rowland S Howard is a little too complacent of his (seemingly) slowly dwindling but extremely loyal fan base, taking far too long to get very little equipment ready and finally sauntering onto stage constantly chewing gum and looking a little unimpressed with something-or-other. A thin and haggard figure he bashes his guitar and voice through a set of slow and pretty depressing material but most in the half full Toff hang on to every word and ringing note, warped in appreciation and devotion. His guitar sound live is a little different from on record and is a very familiar one, a Fender Jaguar and a Musicman amp drenched in reverb, a sound that has been copied directly or indirectly by many guitarists in Melbourne, influencing a generation of musicians and bands. Rowland is living proof that you don't have to be a brilliant guitarist or singer to be successful or influential, just do something a little different and people will hopefully follow eventually, through all stages of your career.
Published in InPress