PAUL DEMPSEY @ The Rechabite gets 8.5/10

Paul Dempsey @ The Rechabite
w/ Leah Grant
Friday, April 9, 2021


Whether touring with his band Something For Kate, or playing his solo material, there’s a reason Paul Dempsey’s shows always sell out fast. For over 20 years he’s been one of the best, most consistent songwriters our country has ever produced, and is a great live performer.

Throw that in the mix with our recent COVID-induced gig deprivation, capacity restrictions and the wonderful new venue that is The Rechabite main hall, and you had the recipe for a rapid sellout and a much-anticipated concert.

With a welcome return in the new Something For Kate album released last year, we’ll hopefully see the band in town soon, but tonight we were treated to a rare solo acoustic set. Covering material old and new, from both SFK and his solo albums, as well as the odd choice cover, Dempsey played a captivating set that reminded us why he’s still such a drawcard on the touring circuit.

Perth-based dark folk songwriter Leah Grant solidly opened by showcasing material from her Vol. 1 EP and the more recently released Keep Quiet single. A great choice of support, she captured the attention of the crowd as they filled the unique venue’s floorspace and multi-level balconies.

With an acoustic guitar and her melancholic, yet powerful voice at times channelling Sharon Van Etten, Grant’s unfeigned ballads consistently soared, proving why this local is one to keep an eye out for.

After a short break Paul Dempsey took the stage in his usual casual manner, an acoustic guitar strung across his lanky frame, launching straight into his set. Immediately the more mature crowd of long-time fans fell silent, transfixed on his every word, many mouthing along the lyrics.

The True Sea from 2016 solo album Strange Loop got things going, and Fast Friends from his superb first solo record Everything Is True was an early highlight.

The majestic, cathedral-like venue really enhanced the atmosphere, with a striking neon backlit stained glass window effect, warm, colourful lighting bathing the room and superb acoustics.

He explained how the new SFK album title, The Modern Medieval, was written before COVID was a thing, and how some things you just can’t predict happening. This introduced new single Situation Room, a highlight from the album, which is up there with SFK’s best, and sounded resplendent in solo form. Another one of his best, Monsters, soon followed.

There was an amusing interlude when Dempsey received a random text. He said “It’s from my friend Dave in Toronto, where it’s a quarter past ten in the morning… and we’re gonna fuck with Dave.” He then proceeded to video call Dave and pan the camera around the crowd, who erupted into a spontaneous chant of “Dave!” “How are the gigs in Canada?” he asked. Dave replied with an expletive. Upon being asked if there was anything he’d like to say to Perth, Dave responded, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a long time… But I’m fresh out of shit to say.”

“Oh yeah that’s right we’re at a gig!” Dempsey joked. And he got straight back into it, with an unexpectedly brilliant cover of Downtown Train, a Tom Waits song, made more famous by Rod Stewart. It suited his style and voice remarkably well.

Another fine moment was the classic Captain (Million Miles An Hour) highlighting what an underrated guitarist Dempsey is. And one of his greatest solo tracks Ramona Was A Waitress demonstrated the casual elegance and economy of his songwriting and Springsteen-esque storytelling lyrics.

Sometime Dempsey’s songs and performances are stark, harsh, brutalist, and other times they shimmer with a melodic, gentle, intimate beauty, which this solo acoustic show really showed.

We’ll Never Work In This Town Again was dedicated to two ex-bandmates, Mike and Joe, who are no longer with us, but, as he said, “They’re in this song.”

Known for his brilliant covers, we were lucky enough to get another cracker tonight in David Bowie’s Life on Mars which he made his own.

The sentimental sounds of Bats featured an impassioned cracking falsetto, “Nobody’s ever gonna break your heart again,” bringing the set proper to a close, though only briefly, as he went off to huge applause, and almost immediately returned, saying “Let’s not do the whole…”

He thanked Leah Grant, saying “She’s great. Go see her. Go support local WA talent.” He generously gave us some more, with the big singalong Theme From Nice Guy and a second encore of the beautiful Birds In A Basement.

Paul Dempsey is a national treasure. Catch him whenever you can.


Photos By Nathan Salisbury

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