Steve Smyth conquers the Woolly Mammoth, 8th May
On a somewhat frantic Friday night, an uncontainable mood stirs in the air at The Woolly Mammoth as people trek up the Star Wars stairs to see Steve Smyth. Heralded now as the Aussie Rock Howler, Smyth has proven himself on shore as a prominent figure in Australian music after completing a colossal album tour, a string of shows at Bluesfest and now finishing his last Australian tour before heading overseas.
First up on the bill are local boys Sleepy Tea. Scrambling to gather their band together after being recruited three hours before the set, two out of five members make it to the stage; a commendable effort. Sleepy Tea live up to their name providing some dreamlike melodies with their electric and acoustic guitar duo. Fans who long for The Middle East to return can fret no more, Sleepy Tea definitely fill the void. An excellent opener that stirs the mood of the audience.
Next up is Sahara Beck. I’ve been eager to see the young songstress live after hearing her EP last year. She struts with the confidence of a veteran, glowing on stage. Supported by her drummer, Beck adds a little bit of soul to the evening. Like a young incarnation of The Dresden Dolls, her music moves with powerful melodies and an added kick of craziness. Throwing an acoustic cover of Get Shaky into the mix, Sahara Beck gets the blood pumping for the main event.
In between chatter and glass chinks, Steve Smyth sneaks onto the stage. He plugs his guitar in and the crowd’s murmurs diminish. Smyth’s opening howls blast through the mic, his Gibson SG bellows through the amps. The crowd start to swing and sway to the crashing cymbals and harsh distortion of his bluesy riffs – a beautiful mix. The set is a mix of early Smyth material and his 2014 album Exits. His cover of Louis Armstrong’s St. James Infirmary and Delilah, an early Smyth track, are immediate standouts. Each deep growl and slide to falsetto churns both anarchistic and comforting motions in my soul. Smyth performs with a vicious ferocity that isn’t even tarnished when a drunken fool heckles from the crowd. He graciously cuts him down a peg and continues with his soft ballad. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, he serenades one of his gentler tunes into the guitar mic. Smyth’s spirits go untarnished and carrying on with a smile he lets his fierce rock close out the night.
Steve Smyth shows time and time again that he is one of the most vibrant artists in Australia. His live shows have made him somewhat of a legend, he’s a figaro of the falsetto, a hero of the howl – and delivers a show that cannot go unpraised.