On an exceptionally blustery and chilly August evening I ventured out to The Gov to see Josh Pyke and his band perform in support of the troubadour’s latest release, The Best of Josh Pyke + B Sides and Rarities. The national tour marks the end of an era for Pyke, who will be taking a break from live shows at the conclusion of his regional solo tour later in the year.
Pyke’s chosen support for the tour, Kyle Lionhart hails from the Northern Rivers area of NSW. Sporting double denim and a hip hat Lionhart delivered a personable set filled with soulful tunes and a warm, pervading voice. Despite a serious attack of the giggles during one song Lionhart kept a restless audience reasonably engaged. Throwing in a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah was a brave move and fortunately Lionhart had the skills to pay the bills, rewarded handsomely with an acutely attentive crowd for the duration of the song.
Josh Pyke came out strong with Lines on Palms, the first track from his 2007 debut album Memories & Dust. The Gov management had decided to set up cabaret tables in front of the stage and I mused at the tension between seated sensibles and eager dancers, wondering how long it would take for the itchy feet to break rank. After the first song it was Pyke himself who ensured the tables provided no obstacle, imploring the audience to ignore the tables and party with him closer to the stage. The ensuing momentary chaos left some punters including myself wedged between abandoned chairs and now immovable tables, but it was a bold, conflict-resolving move which got the night in full-swing. What’s more it allowed people a closer look at Mr Pyke’s brilliant red hipster-business-shirt which was rolled to the elbows and endowed with metallic gold-tipped lapels.
Pyke’s backing band were solid and tasteful, providing powerful driving rhythms and harmonies to Pyke’s well-crafted sometimes melancholy, sometimes indie rock and alt-country songs. Pyke showed why he can stand on the shoulders of giants when it comes to putting on a good show, filling the spaces between songs with genuine banter and heart-felt thanks to the fans who have allowed him to wield his craft over the years. He even sang the birthday girl up the front, ‘Sophie’, happy birthday, although he had to rely on his lead guitarist for the chords (c’mon, I know you’re an original artist but it’s only 3 chords!). Pyke had a Brian Wilson moment in the second set, almost forgetting how to play Beg Your Pardon, but he eventually found the notes and seamlessly charmed his way into the song.
Arguably the most memorable moment was when Pyke was made aware of the ‘shoey’, apparently a local custom where one skulls an alcoholic beverage out of a shoe. Pyke was then handed a crusty, slipper-esc piece of footwear by an audience member, which Pyke converted into a shoe phone and flatly refused to partake of the prescribed ritual. I don’t blame Mr Pyke for refusing said custom given he still has several shows on this national tour. Maybe Adelaide can convince him to chuck a ‘shoey’ when he returns later in the year to play Henley Beach and Norwood as part of his solo regional tour. If you get a chance make sure you catch this great Australian song writer and performer because he won’t be back for a least a couple of years.
By James Hickey