Project Description

Tex, Don & Charlie

@ The Street Theatre Canberra

6th September 2017

(Live Review)

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Tex, Don and Charlie

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Tex, Don and Charlie. Those three names carry with them the weight of a giant chunk of the best that Australian rock n roll history has to offer.

Tex Perkins is the driving force behind acts like The Cruel Sea, Beasts of Bourbon, Tex Perkins and his Ladyboyz, Tex Perkins and the Dark Horses, TnT with partner in crime Tim Rogers, as well as his stint as Johnny Cash in The Man in Black.

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Don Walker is the genius best known as the creative force behind pub rock stalwarts Cold Chisel, but his songwriting and collaboration credits are almost a mirror image of the Australian pop, rock and country chart successes over the last 30 years. Importantly, his songs aren’t just popular; they’re really fucking good.

Charlie Owens is the ultimate guitarist’s guitarist. His work with The Divinyls characterises the best work of that band’s career and his work on the reformed Beasts of Bourbon brought a grit to their sound that took the band to a new level. He has had various stints with other artists and acts over the years and in each case has brought something special to the finished product. His work with a lapsteel and a Dobro hold up against any examples of those instruments at their best.

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Tex, Don & Charlie

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As a trio Tex, Don and Charlie have produced four records over the years, with more than a decade between each one of the last three. Their work is not for the faint hearted. It is raw, dark and often soaked in self-pity. Their albums don’t just wallow in misery; they relish it, revel in it and celebrate it. They are songs for grown-ups, haunted by regret, chased by drunken demons and beaten down by disappointment. But they are also sweet and unwaveringly human. Songs like ‘You’re 39, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine’ and ‘Whenever it Snows’ are heartbreaking, but only if you’ve lived low enough to have to take your beauty where you find it.

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Their current tour sees the threesome performing as a sextet that includes full time lapsteel accompaniment, a standup bass and drums. Performing tonight in the tiny Street Theatre annexed to the ANU, the show is defined by its intimacy. The stage is softly lit with paper lanterns which create the feel of a back-alley bar late at night. Perkins lives up to his reputation as hard drinking dark horse, but he’s also funny and light hearted. His bandmates seem happy to indulge (maybe enable) his swaggering raconteurism. Their set is a good mix of old stuff and tracks from the new record ‘You Don’t Know Lonely’ and is without doubt one of the most satisfying performances of the year. The songs are so perfectly rendered and all three seem so thoroughly pleased to be exactly where they are that it’s impossible not to get caught up in. The interplay between Perkins, Walker and Owen is crucial. The songs are, for the most part, so dark that without some relief things might have gotten a little oppressive. As it happens they didn’t and the show was fucking excellent from start to finish. Perkins booming voice, with its impossibly low register, conveys the exquisite pain of the lyrics and Walker’s minimalist keys hang in the air like cigarette smoke. For most of the show Owen underplays his part, but as with his work on the records part of his genius is the space between the notes. When he takes his turn on the slide it’s easy to see why Paul Kelly was so impressed he wrote the song ‘Charlie Owen’s Slide Guitar’ as a tribute to the man’s inspired creativity.

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Tex, Don & Charlie

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The support, a folkish duo by the name of the Ahern Brothers, provided an exemplary opening to the night. Their down-home harmonies are reminiscent of the Soggy Bottom Boys, made famous by the Cohen Brothers film ‘Oh Brother Where art Thou?’ Their self-titled record features a couple of nicely sparse recordings including one by the name of ‘8 Years on the Run’ about father and son fugitives, Gino and Mark Stocco. It’s a good match for the headline set and sets the scene pleasingly.

Separately, a performance by either Tex, Don or Charlie is something special. Together, it’s an exercise in absorbing the majestic. Given that its likely to be another 12 years, if at all, before the next album tour, being a part of tonight’s show was an unqualified privilege.

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AMNPLIFY – DB