Spectres of Love

Village Stage, January 7


Spectres res
Mikelangelo, AJ True and Michaela. Photo supplied.

At last. With the arrival of the Village Stage Sydney Festival is finally featuring Australian bands, the event having ignored local musicians to a scandalous degree for years. It is a free, sit-on-the-lawn affair, but despite being outdoors (with a stiff breeze) the sound was excellent. In fact of the various Hyde Park configurations the festival has tried this is the best. Rather than squeezing two tents and sometimes a DJ into the compound, there’s now just one tent and the outdoor stage, spaced well apart.

Spectres of Love is the new project from singer/songwriter/guitarist Mikelangelo, who has long been white-anting the music scene’s self-seriousness with Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen and Mikelangelo and the Tin Star. But neither of those eccentric bands gave outlet to the rock songs he found himself writing periodically; songs loosely in a ’60s idiom, peopled with grotesques and anti-heroes. Imagine Elvis Presley singing with the Yardbirds or the Animals and you’d be somewhere near the mark.

While the repertoire’s quality varied and a germ of homogeneity crept in, the best songs, such as Love Comes Knocking, Wild Life and especially Mancave were simultaneously catchy, hard-rocking and amusing. Perhaps the trio format constrained Mikelangelo’s larger-than-life stage presence to some degree, however, because when they were joined by guest guitarist Dirk Kruithof he was suddenly let off the leash of holding the songs together, and rampaged into an unsuspecting audience in his time-honoured style.

Speaking of style the band also included the Audrey Hepburn-lookalike Michaela on bass and drummer AJ True, who held down their end of the bargain with aplomb and, in the latter’s case, gathering energy. What the songs did cry out for were stronger backing vocals: telling harmonies to make some choruses really surge.

In a rare moment of seriousness Mikelangelo introduced Healing Radio with a comment about the wretched plan to remove the musical content from Radio National. I believe the technical term for this is vandalism.