The Triple Door
March 26, 2012
Dylan. Springsteen. Costello. Simon. If a singer is to be judged against the artists whose music he>"/>
Paul Kelly March 26, 2012
March 26, 2012
Dylan. Springsteen. Costello. Simon. If a singer is to be judged against the artists whose music he chooses to play between sets, then the Australian folksinger Paul Kelly certainly likes to set the bar high for himself. And last night, at the Triple Door, he cleared it.
Dressed in a burgundy suit, black shirt and black boots, with his head tightly shorn, Kelly resembled a straight MIchael Stipe as he strode onstage, the letter "L" prominently displayed on a large easel near the microphone. His current tour--and boxed set--finds Kelly playing select tracks from his oeuvre alphabetically, and "Part Two" of back-to-back Seattle dates would promise L through Z. It is a gimmick akin to the Elvis Costello's wheel shows, in which his set list is dictated by what song a Wheel of Fortune-style ticker lands on after every spin (coincidentally, Costello's April 12 Paramount gig will be such a show).
Armed with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, Kelly cleanly worked his way through "Love Never Runs On Time" before being joined onstage by his denim-clad nephew, Dan Kelly, whose staticky shock of unkempt brown hair was the antithesis of his uncle's clear-cut dome. The letter "L" was quickly discarded for "M," with Dan's spare, haunting electric guitar chords on "Midnight Rain" evoking Chris Isaak, adding a necessary richness to the mix.
The lines between Kelly and his contemporaries are often quite clear. "Our Sunshine," a song about the Aussie outlaw Ned Kelly, is his "Hurricane," and "Sydney (from a 747 at Night)" is, by Kelly's own onstage admission, a direct knockoff of the Flatlanders' "Dallas (from a DC9 at Night)." Kelly, unlike Jimmie and Joe, is a Boeing man, showing a bias toward Seattle that was blatantly evident on the track "Seagulls of Seattle". While nowhere near the lyrical caliber of "Other People's Houses," it makes Robyn Hitchcock's "Viva Sea-Tac" sound corny by comparison.
Between songs, Kelly speaks in the Australian voice of God--if God wasn't so bashful when it comes to articulating carnal desires. The letters "V" and "X" proved to be blind spots in Kelly's catalog, so for "X" he selected an "X-rated" song, "I'm Gonna Fuck Her Right Out of My Head," in which the protagonist tears through as much trim as possible in order to erase the memory of an ex-lover. For "V," he punted to Dan and his "vision": "Stretching Out," in which the narrator fantasizes about a threesome with a pair of lipstick lesbians he spots at the gym.
But Bob Schneider Kelly's not: At his core, Kelly is deeply romantic. The stunning folk ballads "When I First Met Your Ma" and "(You Can Put Your) Shoes Under My Bed" mesmerized an otherwise happy-go-lucky crowd. Like the very best songwriters, Kelly is capable of taking a listener to disparate places with every tune; to witness a two-and-a-half-hour concert of his is to take an emotional road trip. And make no mistake about it: Kelly is among our very best songwriters.