Augie March

There is, there always has been, something so timeless and breathtaking about Melbourne based lit-rock wizards Augie March's humble Melbourne gigs.


Since their 1999 debut single ‘Asleep in Perfection', Augie March have been earmarked for greatness and acclaim. Since that time they gone on to produce what have come to be regarded by some as two of the greatest folk rock masterpieces of the modern era: ‘Sunset Studies' in 2000 and ‘Strange Bird' in 2002. In Glen Richard's the five-piece have a literary wizard without peer. Adam Donavan's brings an innovative, can-do approach to the guitar. The organic harmonies of Edmond Ammendola and Dave Williams regularly take their ditties to new and unexpected places. Keenan Box's often manic piano stylings means he can play the sweet overture or the engine's rumble with equal aplomb.


These are the foundations upon which musical dynasties are built. Yet despite all this, the band's just deserts still await them. Virtually unknown abroad, they are still to be found around town, playing to ardent supporters who, just like me, can't fathom how the rest of the world has been so slow on the uptake. On their website they quip that they have spent the best part of the last two years undertaking various work for the dole projects.


With the impending release of their third long player, ‘Moo, You Bloody Choir', one hopes that that may be all about to change.


To launch the first single from the album, ‘One Crowded Hour', the band fronted the Prince of Wales for a sold out show to give fans and media a taste of what to expect from the new album. To cater to the audience's media / fan dichotomy, we were promised an opening set of solely new material, to be followed by a second set from the back catalogue.


The early start time (8.30pm) apparently caught a few off guard but by the time Richards threw out the opening refrains of new song ‘Bottle Baby' the audience had swelled to an expectant silence.


‘One Crowded Hour' followed and yielded a harder edge than the recorded single currently doing the rounds on radio.


Those familiar with the song will struggle to forget it. It combines the traditional forebears of past Augie classics in a format perhaps more accessible to the ears of those immune to literary genius. ‘One Crowded Hour' is Richards at his insightful, irreverent best.


If love if a bolt from the blue, then what is that bolt but a glorified screw, that doesn't hold nothing together.


Next cab of the rank for the night was another newie, ‘The Cold Acre'. This song is already a personal favorite and must be a likely candidate for the second single. Despite a rough sound job, new pearls could be gleaned:


But when I go, my dog will know, To leave this old fellow and find a new pillow Far from the chill of the cold acre… In my chest there's a cold acre, nothing grows in a cold acre…


The band soon launched into ‘Mother Greer,' most likely a polemical response to Germane Greer's 2003 publication, A Beautiful Boy – a pictorial thesis documenting the beauty of the pre-pubescent male.


Oh England is pretty in the summertime, Boys are beautiful till the age of nine, And certainly women begin to pine for usurpation and then fear , But after making love we had nothing left to Greer.


Rich in melody and harmony, ‘Mother Greer' - like many of the new tracks - seems at odds with the train wreck lawlessness of past rollicking numbers like ‘This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers.'


From their performance of numbers like ‘Mother Greer' the increased vocal range Richards has at his disposal became apparent. Likewise, it was plain to see that the vocal capabilities of Ammendola and drummer Dave Williams have also evolved to a considerable degree.


At times the band seemed unnerved by the large media presence. Despite lacking some of the usual causality and irreverence that has often been that staple of Augie March gigs, the band's rendition of new tracks was nonetheless flawless. Even during ‘Stranger Strange', which Richards said he had been having difficulty performing live, the outfit failed to miss a beat. Other highlights of the newer material included the lush ‘Victoria's Secrets' and ‘The Honey Month.'


To round out the first set, the band finished with a powerful rendition of the brutish ‘Just Passing Through.' ‘Just Passing Through' is a ripping return to the bands more aggressive inclinations.


Although they had already pledged to play a second set from the back catalogue, the band received a feverish invitation to return from the capacity crowd. Upon reappearing, it became evident that the group was relieved to have delivered their new material flawlessly for the industry and media onlookers. They reemerged more relaxed, made a return to on-stage banter and attacked both their drinks and songs with a more typical intensity.


Highlights from the second set included ‘Addle Brains,' ‘This Train will be Taking No Passengers,' ‘The Keeper' and ‘The Moth Ball.' It was pleasing to see they have lost no mastery of the older numbers. After a potent second set, the band took leave of the stage to attend to media duties. Unquenched, a further encore was demanded. To pacify the crowd, Glen returned unaccompanied for a tender, calming rendition of the timeless ‘There is no Such Place.' This song, as much as any other throughout the evening, showcased to all the maturation and distinctiveness of Glen's voice. It was a moment to be lost in, the point in the evening where one feels compelled to call a far-away friend so they too can share in something majestic and special.


That is was 5am in Canada did not bother my far away someone in the slightest. She has since indicated that she will likewise have no complications in received ‘Moo, You Bloody Choir' soon after it's release on March 11.

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