The Continental Café, Melbourne - Thursday 12 August 1999
review by Nick Corr for Addicted to Noise, Australia
The Night Is Singing
Sad To Go
She Set Fire To The House
Taken By Surprise
I've Got A Lot of Faith In You
When Love Comes Back To Haunt You
Because It's Spring
Shaped Like Love
Fell From A Great Height
Nobody Ever Could Ever Feel This Way
The Big Room
Such Luck To Be Alive
Don't Talk To Me About Love
Straight To Your Arms
The Continental Café's plush velvet curtains parted at precisely 10:15 to reveal a nervous looking Stephen Cummings clutching an acoustic guitar. Flanked by Jeff Burstin with a second acoustic, Cummings eyes remain fixed on the ground or peeking up at the music stand beside him, as they kick off with "It's Raining" from Stephen's new album 'SPIRITUAL BUM'. The opener, which finds Cummings employing a slight Dylanesque phrasing, sets the tone for the evening perfectly: a low key performance but high quality showcase of Cummings latest batch (eleven of the album's dozen tunes receive an airing this evening) of stripped back contemporary pop.
Stephen Cummings, in a dark polka dot shirt and looking more distinguished now his hair has lost all traces of all color except silver and gray, seems warmed by the crowds enthusiastic applause and the duo shuffle acoustically through "The Night Is Singing". The rest of the high pedigreed band - Bill McDonald on bass and backing vocals, Peter Luscombe on drums, and Even's Ashley Naylor on guitar and mandolin - take the stage and quickly kick into "Sad To Go", making effective use of Naylor on mandolin.
This leads into a fairly rocking four-song bracket. "She Set Fire To The House", the nights first non-new LP song is greeted enthusiastically, with the more earthy rock arrangement demonstrating just how tight Cummings current touring outfit is and what an effectively restrained guitarist Ashley Naylor has become. "Wishing Machine", one of the new albums highlights, is delivered in a similarly enjoyable fashion, while "Taken By Surprise" is the nights sole inclusion from Cummings most-recent previous album 'ESCAPIST'. The short full band bracket closes with a funky "I've Got A Lot Of Faith In You" from 1992's 'UNGUIDED TOUR'.
The rest of the band leave the stage and Cummings and Burstin deliver a delicate "When Love Comes To Haunt You", before they're joined by Naylor for new album tracks "Because It's Spring" and "Shaped Like Love". The half-spoken and comical "Melcancholy Hour" sees Burstin adopt a more percussive picking style to accompany Cummings, giving the song a talkin-blues approach.
The band return to the stage again for a section that oddly focuses on one of Cumming's more overlooked albums: 1994's Steve Kilby produced 'FALLING SWINGER'. Featuring three songs from that record: "Fell From A Great Height", "The Big Room", and "September 13"; the material comes up much stronger in a less produced live environment, particularly the albums Kilby penned single "September 13" which seemed more relaxed and accessible sans-the recorded versions muted trumpet. 'SPIRITUAL BUM's "Nobody Ever Could Ever Feel This Way" gets an airing and shows itself to be an energetic live number.
The set closes with a drawn out version of "Don't Talk To Me About Love" that makes great use of bassist Bill McDonalds harmony vocals. A few minutes of rapturous applause brings the band back for one final song, the gospel-tinged "Straight To Your Arms", bringing the hour and a half show to a subtle but enjoyable finish.
© Nick Corr/Addicted To Noise - reprinted with permission