MARGO PRICE & COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS
Factory Theatre, October 16
As Margo Price and her (poker-faced, long-haired, adaptable) band walked off for good this night, a man next to me turned to a friend and exclaimed loudly, “now THAT was a show”.
Really? There’d been no lights of any note, nor screens or graphics. Dancers - bar one woman on the floor giving it some tailfeather shaking late in the night – didn’t crowd out Price, who was disinclined to swing out over the audience on a trapeze. Or, if she were inclined, had not packed the trapeze for this trip.
And if the aforementioned poker-faced gents had been anymore laidback they’d have been reclining on Barcaloungers. Call that a “show”?
Pumped up with end-of-tour excitement (and maybe denying/defying the horror ahead of an early flight home after this show) Price moved, sang, grinned and traversed the stage like that apricot pantsuit* was gold satin and rhinestone-studded.
While the Dolly P vocal influence is less obvious on stage than on record – Price’s voice and songs, like the new delighting-in-the-diss Leftovers, giving more nods to someone like Loretta Lynn (though the once-iconoclastic, now Trump-loving Lynn would likely not sing a song rhyming casserole with asshole) – there was more than a flicker of wickedness in the eyes that brought to mind Ms Parton.
And in case the connection wasn’t clear, the encore was a rousing and irony-free 9 To 5, to remind us of a bit of history, the fact some truths are still evident for women in any workforce, and that verve and vigour can overcome, or elevate, any bit of cheese.
In truth, cheese was not in sight anywhere. As evidenced by songs such as Wild Women and the set closing rev-up, Hurtin’ (On The Bottle), Price works a very traditional route of ‘60s style country with excursions into southern rock (the extended climax of Cocaine Cowboys, with her on a second drumkit, power jammed towards 10 minutes) without recourse to tricksy “modernising”. Well, except for greater frankness in language - after all she’s “working like a motherfucker” - and a songwriting ability to put curves into songs to take away even a hint of pastiche.
Quickly winding up from a scene-setting opening of Nowhere Fast, Price and band moved from honky tonk with a slight psych edge in Weakness (that psych edge maybe making a connection with Jimi Hendrix’s Manic Depression, which played over their entrance), through a rock thump in Tennessee, to the groove-rich rhythm and blues of Little Pain. Here was punch and a joyous upswing simultaneously.
Throw in the ebullient New Cut Road by Guy Clark – during which Price worked the audience at the stage lip like a preacher - contrasted with a solo-at-piano American Made for a kind of twin tales of the American working class being screwed, and the funky rhythm-with-choogling guitars of Four Years Of Chances, and you’ve got a pretty decent package of American musics.
If soul was less evidently a factor on stage for Price, that had been covered earlier by the evening’s opener, Courtney Marie Andrews, a woman slightly more familiar with Australia on her second trip, though still marvelling at the discovery of the word relos and vowing to take it home to share with her own friends and relos.
Andrews has a classic soul voice in that, without overt churchiness or melismas, it seems deeply rooted in her emotions and always worn close to the skin. With an electric guitar doing desert shadows behind her, and her acoustic or piano occupying the front with discretion, the room is left for Andrews’ voice and she fills it, offering pain and need and sorrow in varying proportions.
It reached a peak with May Your Kindness Remain, which even more so than on record offered a small mountain to climb both technically and emotionally. Yet this seemed effortless in her hands, as she made the air vibrate around her.
That said, this climax also showed scope yet for greater variety in tempo and tone with her songwriting, to emphasise those strengths. There’s so much to enjoy there already.
As for Margo Price? She sang, danced, strutted, played, laughed and royally entertained. Yes, the bloke was right, now THAT was a show.
*Don’t be fooled by the lighting in the photo, that outfit was apricot, not golden yellow.