The Garage International @ NACC, Fri Mar 13
It was great to hear Sympathy Orchestra playing again. They were the last in a line of bands that entertained Adelaide audiences in the ‘90s. The lineage goes something like Billy And The Redfins, The Redfins, Scafell Pike, The Julian Barnett Ensemble, JBE, and now Sympathy Orchestra. The common denominator in all these outfits is Julian Barnett – guitar player extraordinaire. Ray Smith, featured in this concert on keyboards, and John Appleby on drums, were players in many of these wonderful bands too. The man who always seems to be smiling, Istvan Nemeth on bass, completed the line-up
I am continually amazed how these bands, most of which were solely instrumental, could attract such large crowds over such a long period. Even though their music was experimental, there was something about their arrangements and musicianship that struck a chord with hundreds of Adelaide music goers.
So, here they are, back again for a one night stand. To be honest I was shocked by the smallish size of the audience. I thought there’d be a crowd of people like me hanging out to see them play one more time. But those who were there were not disappointed.
Billed as prog-rock instrumental music it was a surprise and a pleasure to realise just how avant garde this music now seems. Very free form, loud soaring guitars and keyboards, and at times hypnotic. And no drum machines in sight. Just musicians playing live in the raw with all the imperfections that are part of a group pushing musical boundaries.
Julian’s trademark brief introductions – “Here’s a little tune called XXXX” – still humorously understate the gravity of the songs.
A wonderful walk down memory lane. It was a privilege to hear these great musicians play together one more time, and to dwell on how music styles belong in the specific time that spawned them. This did not sound like the music of today!