Blue Mountains Theatre, June 13


Ed Kuepper. All photos: Brigitte Grant Photography.

This was a curious aesthetic choice. Where Ed Kuepper has often disguised his voice’s relatively narrow range by colouring it in different instrumental ways, here the default context was loud. As in LOUD. The extreme volume from his distortion-tortured electric guitar smothered his singing and could even overwhelm the mighty Jim White’s drumming. It was a version of the mix that radically reduced the differentiation between Kuepper’s quite diverse songs, and virtually eliminated the impact of his often beautifully-crafted lyrics.

But there were still several saving graces. Across a rich career that stretches back to the first half of the 1970s, and spans such bands as The Saints, Laughing Clowns, The Aints! and countless solo projects, Kuepper has had a singular ability to reinvent himself and to reinvestigate his own back catalogue from new perspectives.

Jim White. Photos: Brigitte Grant Photography.

It was certainly – and inevitably – investigated anew in this collaboration with White, continuing Kuepper’s fondness for duetting with drummers. White’s intuitive improvising extended to spontaneous orchestration, so that even while the guitar pursued Kuepper’s preferred full-frontal primality, the surrounding colours, textures and densities were in constant flux. The drummer restlessly swapped implements and seldom settled on a simple groove, applying some of the drama, energy, magic and unpredictability that has fuelled Dirty Three and Xylouris White.

When White was at his softest – whether playing with brushes or massaging the drums with mallets – and Kuepper offered a hint of relief by playing with his thump up on the guitar’s neck, you heard again the timeless boyishness of Kuepper’s voice, sounding much as it did four decades ago. The evocative Rainy Night exemplified this as did All of These Things and the finely crafted The Church of Simultaneous Existence, which included the guitarist’s most nuanced playing over a rustle of brushes. White’s other option was to compound the guitar’s ferocity and build an impregnable two-man wall of sound, as on Swing for the Crime, The Crying Dance and Collapse Board. If I run into you tomorrow, I’ll only be able to see your lips moving.