Monday, November 16, 2009


Monday, January 14, 2008 
The Toff in Town

With The Toff setting seats in tight rows, resembling a school stage production, and the audience like anxious parents, the childlike melodies of Sly Hats seem perfectly set. There is enough frisson in the audience to make the outside temperature seem arctic tonight such is the word-of-mouth hype about this show. Leading this perfectly cast support act, Geoff O'Connor pulls off quite a feat maintaining the audience's attention for the duration of his brilliant set, so keen are we to get our first glimpse of Scan-indie-navian royalty.

Accompanied by Jess Venables on cello and Guy Blackman on Rhodes piano, the Sly Hats push warm, bubbling cocoons; amazingly rendering the songs even more intimate than their album versions. Terrified sees Jess duetting with Geoff to great effect, particularly during the closing line 'I want to be terrified of you', which sees her making a Susannah Hoffs-like doe-eyed sideways glance to Geoff as he gazes at his fingers on the guitar; pop heaven. As is their version of the title track from his album Liquorice Nights, seemingly tailored for this venue with this lineup at this time. After closing with a stellar double of Surely It's Good and I'm So Ready (To Fake it for You) in which O'Connor's obtuse and sincere lyrics have never been more discernible and his banter slightly less rushed, the trio leave to cheers and clapping that seem to humble the already humble O'Connor.

While The Left Banke's Too Much On My Mind plays over the PA, the red curtains part and Jens (JENS!) appears, singing along with violinist Nick and the welcome return of Jess behind her cello. After 20-odd seconds of rapturous applause he seamlessly breaks into Black Cab which samples The Left Banke's song, a trick he does masterfully again at the gig's close with The Opposite of Hallelujah and Chairmen Of The Board's Gimme Just A Little More Time. Between these high points (possibly only bettered by his opening salvo: "Nice to be here in Melbourne, where I live."which elicits huge cheers), we are treated to unparalleled charisma, masterful storytelling and songs embellished with further background stories and more Richman-esque repartee. Mercifully the sound is crystal clear and we don't miss a word of Jens' gorgeously illustrated stories. New song New Directions is a welcome and surprisingly upbeat ode to his recent departure from his native Gothenburg, as his is reluctant use of vocal looping that fleshes out several songs wonderfully. Postcard To Nina becomes a short story that happens to have a clap-backed chorus and some major 7th chords slipped underneath (as do most of Lekman's songs). Crowd involvement comes easily when he calls on us, and we gladly imitate his amplified heart during A Sweet Summer's Night On Hammer Hill. The disco of Sipping On The Sweet Nectar and the synth waves of Shirin aren't missed at all given their sensitive reinvention tonight thanks to the more than capable backing of the string duo. Maple Leaves is the gorgeously rendered Avalanches-esque encore and smiling faces are all that's left once the curtain finally falls. Welcome Jens. Stick around.

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