Dirty Three @ The Palace
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Dirty Three @ The Palace

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Dirty Three are one of the few bands who stand apart in music today, their sound so intrinsically their own that almost no other Australian act comes close to touching them. Having just released their first album in some seven years, the monumental Towards The Low Sun, this is their first headline show in Melbourne for some time and it appears as if most of the population are here tonight to welcome them home.

I missed the first support Laura Jean, but arrive in time to see Lost Animal’s set. Tonight’s five-piece lineup sees Luke Horton (Love Of Diagrams), Joel Carey (Peak Twins) and Kirin J Callinan added to the mix. The inclusion of Callinan creates an interesting take on Lost Animal’s sound, the layer of menacing guitar contributes another dimension to the songs and complements Jarrod Quarrell’s sometimes sinister vocal intonations. Moving through tracks off last year’s debut Ex Tropical, it’s great to hear these songs performed on a big PA; the depth of sound on Shags Chamberlin’s creeping bass lines of particular note. Ending with Lose The Baby, the song sounds harsher than usual, the acerbic wit of Quarrell’s lyrics hitting home in a visceral way. Tonight’s performance was a powerful one.

Excitement builds in the interim and when Dirty Three finally take to the stage the crowd goes bananas. So palpable is the excitement and anticipation for the band, personal space becomes involuntarily lost in the merge forward towards the stage. Rain Song is the opener – it has been introduced as a song about being a pimple on the bum of Gina Rinehart – typical Warren Ellis banter, he has been missed! Its slow build sees the band get into their groove and move straight into Furnace Skies; also off the new album. It’s noisy and frantic, with Jim White in a fury on the drums. Something happens to Mick Turner’s amp here, I had noticed his guitar being barely audible in the first song. A sound guy soon comes to the rescue, swapping the amp over whilst White and Ellis keep up the intensity of the performance. Sometimes I Forget You Are Gone is next up and sees Ellis trades violin for electric piano. The stripped back composition is utterly beautiful and still maintains the Dirty Three feel without the overpowering violin Ellis is known and loved for. It’s subtle guitar and piano melody leave room for White’s spectacular drumming to shine through and create a haunting, yet sparse feel. The set seems to be divided into two sections, songs off the new album and the second half dedicated to the classics. A stunning version of Some Summers They Drop Like Flies sees the crowd again in rapture, although from where I’m standing I still have a bit of trouble hearing Turner’s guitar. The Restless Waves as always, proves devastatingly beautiful. The rustling of White’s drums making way for Ellis’ slow, lingering violin which seems to push and pull the listener through heartbreak and respite. As the song builds one can see the impact upon the crowd, who sway along hypnotised. This is followed by a devastatingly good version of Authentic Celestial Music and crowd favourite Everything’s Fucked. Last up is another song from Towards The Low SunAshen Snow. Ellis is back on piano, the delicate melody leaving room for Turner to showcase his sublime guitar playing which seems to replicate the fragility of falling snow. It’s the perfect ending to the set and after some discussion with the crowd, the three decide on an encore of Sue’s Last Ride. This song, Ellis states, is for the ladies in the crowd and the collective swoon throughout the audience proves he’s still got it. The beauty of the Dirty Three is that they have a unique ability to evoke an emotional response from the listener, something that so rarely happens at a live show. Their music gets under your skin, it’s something that’s familiar yet intangible, no matter how many times I have seen them live I’m still moved by their music and tonight was no exception.

BY CASSANDRA KIELY

Photo credit: Cassandra Kiely

LOVED: Warren Ellis.

HATED: Sticky floors.

DRANK: Like it was Friday.