Don McGlashan and Shane Carter - review

by David Larsen / 13 March, 2016
You could tell the audience wanted more. It was the way they chanted, "More! More! More!" I say "they"; I was in there chanting too. When Don McGlashan told us the concert was nearly over - "Festival rules, guys, we have a strict curfew" - I initially assumed he was kidding, because according to my sense of time we'd only been going half an hour or so; but in fact our allocated ninety minutes were up.

The only thing wrong with this concert was that it was too short by half. McGlashan and Shayne Carter put together a set using the best method I've ever heard of: each of them went through the other's extensive songbook and picked out numbers for the two of them to play together. Most of their choices were well off the beaten track, with upwards of a third of the evening's 18 songs never having been performed live before.
How many singer-songwriters could offer up a night of B-sides and rarities and still deliver wall-to-wall brilliance?

How many singer-songwriters could offer up a night of B-sides and rarities and still deliver wall-to-wall brilliance? These two men have been writing and performing music their whole adult lives, and they're both in their fifties, and if you ever wanted a demonstration of the idea that true mastery comes with long practice, this concert was it.

They were alone on the stage except for a collection of guitars, a drum kit, McGlashan's signature euphonium, and a set of foot-operated audio looping gear, which allowed them to move from instrument to instrument mid-song, accompanied by on-the-fly recordings of what they'd just been playing. It was all done effortlessly and with no special attempt at showmanship; at one point McGlashan decided he didn't like the euphonium loop he'd just set going, so he wiped it and recorded another.

You can convey muddleminded semi-competence with this sort of show-your-working stage business, or you can convey the relaxed confidence of someone who knows exactly what he's doing. Between them, Carter and McGlashan are the equivalent of a pair of ordinary soloists and a full backing band.

The general tone of the songs was, in theory, well to the dark and melancholy end of the spectrum. (As Carter put it, introducing his choice of the early Muttonbirds song "No Plans For Later", "This is a fun little song about obsession"). In practice, the two performers were having so much fun, and the capacity audience was so happy to be there, that the evening felt like a party. I did wonder how the choice of songs would have registered with anyone who hadn't spent decades waiting for a chance to hear a live performance of "No Plans For Later" and the rest of the set, but as far as I could tell, no one of that description had managed to get a ticket before the concert sold out.

"We're thinking we might take this show on the road, later in the year", McGlashan said at one point. "What do you guys think, good idea?" Wild whooping, shouts of "Hell yeah", extended applause. The general feeling was that it seemed like a pretty good idea.

Don McGlashan and Shayne Carter, Spiegeltent, March 11.
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