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Live Reviews : Tim McMillan and Rachel Snow, Karen Heath and I Built the Sky (acoustic) @ Worker’s Club, Melbourne, 13/03/2020

By on March 14, 2020

News of the Coronavirus outbreak is sweeping the entire planet as I mosey over to the Worker’s Club this night. I’m thinking it may possibly affect the attendance at what is a very special night for Tim and Rachel, but it doesn’t turn out to be the case. By the time they hit the stage, the cosy Worker’s bandroom is very nicely chockers.

Prior to that however, we the punters have a couple of rather wonderful support acts to experience. Rohan from I Built the Sky sits altogether unassumingly on a stool with his guitar, says ‘hi!’ and then proceeds to captivate us for 25 minutes with his fabulous technique and beautifully acoustically rendered tunes. Usually loud, ballsy and in your face, tracks from his last couple of records take on a whole new form and identity in this setting, just a sweet wash of sound flowing from his nimble-fingered fretwork. He also treats us to a couple of brand-new, never before heard in public new tunes, both of which feature dazzling precision picking and both of which are also very catchy. It’s that juxtaposition that brings smiles to the punters’ faces.

I still love the loud, electrified stuff as much as ever, but it’s also great to watch a master in action in this raw, stripped back and intimate way every so often, when you can truly experience their dexterity and feel.

I’m not sure if Tim and Rachel handpicked the support acts themselves, but I imagine they did, and they could not have done any better. Wildly different from IBTS, but every bit as enjoyable in a very different way, next up is Melbourne musician and songwriter Karen Heath. Another true solo performance, she sits behind a large keyboard in the centre of the stage and sends shivers down our collective spine with her beguiling voice and dramatic compositions. Drawing from the likes of Kate Bush and Tori Amos, Heath channels her influences to create unique, dark and artful pop songs that make you feel something, and then delivers them in a live setting in a truly engaging way. I’d love to hear these songs with a full production, band and even an orchestra, to experience their full potential.

It takes unimaginable skill to hold an audience’s attention for any period of time when it’s just you, your instrument and your songs on stage, and the two opening acts this night do it as well as any I’ve seen.

Time for the main act. Tim McMillan and Rachel Snow are a class act, and tonight they again show us why they are building excellent notoriety for themselves across virtually the length and breadth of Europe. An album launch of sorts, this is also their last show in Australia before they head north again for the European spring and summer, where they make a very solid living for themselves bringing their one man, one woman show to the people of Germany, Spain, Italy et al, and all the way out to Iceland on occasion.

Tonight they treat us to almost an hour and a half of their idiosyncratic voice-acoustic guitar-violin original pieces, their witty between-song banter and their unique acoustic takes on the likes of Slayer, Ozzy, Smashing Pumpkins, the Bunnings Warehouse theme song and more, and the packed-out crowd loves every minute. There really is no act going around, that I’m aware of anyway, quite like these two. It’s a real privilege to catch them in this scenario before they head back. They really have honed their act down to a fine art.

Here’s an idea I’ll run up the flagpole to see who salutes. The four people who performed tonight, who are all intimately acquainted with each other, should grab a skilled drummer, form a band and write songs together. I would pay good money to see/hear what they came up with.

To hell with Coronavirus, live music still lives. Tonight is absolute proof of that.

About

Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine, themusic.com.au, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.