Dirty Three and Scout Niblett at NeumosPosted by Daniel Ahrendt
Warren Ellis of Dirty Three (All Photos by Daniel Ahrendt)
While Neumos wasn’t near capacity on Tuesday night, the members of Australian instrumental heros Dirty Three made sure that any empty space around the avid fans present was filled with their glorious sonic cocktail. The band is currently making its way through the U.S in support of their 2012 record Toward The Low Sun which came out back in February. The record is the first studio album the group has put out since 2005′s Cinder and is their second release to appear in the top 50 of the ARIA Albums Chart, Australia’s main music sales chart. The album characterized the band’s twenty year dynamic with subtle yet gleaming flourish, blending violinist Warren Ellis‘s distorted bowing with Mick Turner‘s guitar and Jim White‘s virtuosic drum trickery into barely contained chaotic glee. Their live set had them opening the gates in full, letting Ellis’s rambunctious and genial stage energy charge through and take up any space that hadn’t already been filled by his epic beard.
An unexpected amount of welcome booty shaking occured
Dirty Three is known for their songs of singularly rustic and hopeful nature guided by the dynamically powerful melodies Ellis produces. Along side these lines weave the superior control of White’s fluttering drums and the heart broken finger picking of Turner’s guitar. Although their material has the capacity to reach loud and feverish climaxes, the volume of Ellis’s violin was more powerful than one would initially consider appropriate for a group of such relative recorded delicacy. More importantly, listening to their catalog and becoming familiar with that delicate nature will not prepare you for the complete lack of pretension and seriousness Ellis presents live. I am having a hard time remembering when I last encountered a concert with a frontman so talkative and holistically intoxicated on life. Almost every song was prefaced by a tiny fictional monologue attempting to communicate in words what each completely instrumental piece was based on. In the midst of each tune, Ellis’s stage antics made up for the static nature of the other two members with calisthenics to spare. He howled, humped, and generally painted the stage with his wasted pied piper/lounge lizard self while laughing manically with his violin.
While Ellis did his thing, prancing about being a demented faun, Turner and White generated a comfortable and effortlessly moving aleatoric wall. The simplicity and fractured nature of the guitar parts in Dirty Three mesh seamlessly with the constantly ornamental drum parts. Watching the rhythm section with their faces devoid of emotion made me laugh several times. Turner’s magic isn’t in technical mastery, its in the emotive quirks where he decides to pluck a note. His guitar playing has all the polished glory and heart pull of a children’s choir. Watching White play the drums is enough to either convince you that you should steal his practiced book of tricks and techniques or that your own skill at the kit might as well curl up and die. His hands and feet have the precision of four humming birds with Blue Angels insignias. His face says he’s bored and vaguely amused by his surroundings.
The band’s set was a blistering success mixing wild and heartfelt music with the intense personality of one of Australia’s most loved popular violinists. Dirty Three is a relatively elusive beast to see live so if you have the chance to do so, take it.
Opening for Dirty Three was Scout Niblett aka Emma Louise Niblett, a songwriter of British origin and a rusty romantic intimacy one would expect of a WW2 stiletto. She currently lives here in the U.S and opened for Dirty Three in Seattle and Portland, using her Mustang and light syrupy voice to evoke emotional gut punches on par with 90s PJ Harvey. The only detractor from the set was a hopelessly drunken idiot who got dragged out by security for…”complimenting” Niblett often and loudly in a really dumb British accent. You got what you deserved and thanks for the laughs.