The Garden Of Unearthly Delights’ Aurora Spiegeltent, Wed Feb 18
Initially, it seems as if the audience members have failed to realise that the rather nondescript fellow walking out onto the stage is the man they have come to see. There’s no welcoming applause. Deliberately unassuming, wearing a most definitely anti-rockstar outfit, Archer says hello, picks up his battered guitar and the penny drops for most. He opens up with Sittin’ On Top Of The World, a blues standard made famous by Howlin’ Wolf, and it’s an amazing transition. Where has this hundred-year-old voice come from? Is this the same person that was just talking to us?
Quite possibly creating a record for the number of songs played in a one-hour Spiegeltent set, Archer races through 23 songs, or parts thereof. His playing and singing is reminiscent of Hank Williams, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Woody Guthrie. This is where he is at. His old Yamaha guitar, held around his neck by a raggedy old piece of cloth, looks the part as he fingerpicks his way through the performance.
Archer’s banter is witty, matter-of-fact and genuine. His disarming, ramshackle charm makes him immediately likeable. At times, this spills over into his performance but it’s OK; it’s part of his shtick. An attempt at his “modern western fairytale romance” falls apart at the seams, but Archer shrugs it off and presses on.
His choice of covers sits nicely within the set. John Henry (Woody Guthrie), I’m My Own Grandpa (Ray Stevens), and Old Shep (Elvis) are all given the Archer treatment. Most of the lyrics are based around North American imagery (prairies, cowboys, freight trains etc) but there’s the occasional attempt to bring it closer to home with his own songs about kangaroos and bushrangers.
Very enjoyable, much more so than some of the highly-polished early-Americana acts that comes our way.