Whitley, Jay Laffer, Sime Nugent @ Northcote Social Club, Melbourne (18/09/08)


1 Oct 2008, 0:29

Thu 18 Sep – Whitley, Sime Nugent, Jae Laffer

With the audience politely sitting on the floor of the Northcote Social Club’s bandroom, Sime Nugent opened proceedings with a solo set. Announcing himself as Josh Pyke, Nugent stomped his foot in time as he banged down on his acoustic guitar, playing a great set based around his country-folk original tunes. The man shared jokes between songs, suggesting that headliners Whitley and Jay Laffer were hiding behind a keyboard during his set, and that his set was a front for a Scientology meeting (Tom Cruise was to appear shortly); but his booming voice combined with his strong songwriting on tracks such as Now You’re There showed that this Castlemaine boy will be getting more attention as the days go on.

Better known as the frontman of incredible Perth outfit The Panics, Jay Laffer announced that he would play a few of his band’s tracks, a cover or two, then join Whitley for a few songs during his set. When he fluffed the opening song Ruins, Laffer admitted that he had never played the song without the boys before displaying a shy smile when he corrected his mistake. Despite not having the rest of his band behind him, the stripped down versions of Panics tunes shone strongly through the doors of the Social Club’s bandroom. Feeling Is Gone worked wonderfully, and Laffer blending Sundowner straight into Cruel Guards was magnificent. A fantastic performance.

With the bandroom now at maximum capacity, Whitley popped on stage to loud cheers. Taking a stab with some new material, he opened the set with a song about three months of heartbreak (Hole In Me), before bringing out talented jazz singer Megan Washington for Poison In Your Pocket. The storytelling was strong in Whitley’s songs and between them, as he told tales of going on NBC’s Today Show drunk off his face and admitting his hatred of Sydney and love of Frankston.

The turning point of this performance was when Jay Laffer joined Whitley on stage. While the jokes continued between the pair (Whitley joked that two of Australia’s greatest were on stage to tune an instrument), Laffer and Whitley went back and forth between songs, helping each other out with vocals and instruments. Laffer provided backing vocals for I Remember, Whitley helped out on Get Us Home, and Lost In Time started with a quote that Whitley probably wants to forget, ‘Suck on this Foxtel’. But it was the brilliance of Panics single Don’t Fight It, with Whitley turning his keyboard onto xylophone mode to help Laffer out got the crowd to roar in what was a special performance. Encore tracks All Is Whole and Cash were special, but the crowd went home remembering a hilarious cover of ABBA’s Dancing Queen. The onstage performance from Laffer and Whitley provided for a show to remember.

In fact, the show would have been perfect if not for one niggling factor – the somewhat disrespectful audience. Despite the show being a sell out, much of the audience did not seem interested in what was happening on stage, and seemed more content on talking with friends with their backs to the stage. It started a chain reaction – members of the crowd would talk to their friends, often while the artists were playing (and this included headliner Whitley); other members would tell the talkers to be quiet, the loud members would stop for a few brief seconds before resuming their conversation. This really detracted from the show, taking away from what could have been the perfect show of 2008. A shame.

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