Tex, Don & Charlie

The Factory Theatre, August 22


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Don, Tex and Charlie. Photo: Daniel Boud.

“I’m a man in conflict with nature,” intones Tex Perkins in his song of that name, encapsulating in a line the friction that fuels his writing and his singing. In the course of this performance he was also a man in conflict with his guitar, bleeding profusely from a finger for the latter part of the two-hour show after slicing it open on Charlie Owen’s prized Telecaster during Dead Dog Boogie.

Most bands would happily shed blood to have two composers of the calibre of Perkins and Don Walker and a guitarist as nuanced as Owen. But while creatively the group is a triumvirate, in performance Perkins becomes the focal point thanks to both his subterranean voice and larger-than-life presence. He lurched about the stage, leered at the audience, swigged beer, strummed, bled, clowned and unleashed lyrics streaked with lines of staggering power.

The threesome drew heavily on the recent You Don’t Know Lonely opus, their finest album yet, crafting a show (that was slightly too long) where if the grooves were any slower they’d stall and if the playing were any sparser there’d be silence. Beyond tempo and space Walker and Perkins’ songs for this project share similarities of mood (sombre) and humour (black), while musically they perfectly complement each other with Perkins’ material being the edgier and Walker’s the more reassuring.

Owen showed uncanny instincts for providing the minimum the material required as he swapped between electric, acoustic and lap-steel guitars. His rare solos glowed with warmth, although his truly vital role was as the band’s musical nucleus. The more decorative function was assumed by Garrett Costigan’s pedal steel guitar, notably on Walker’s Louise. Stephen Hadley (double bass) was the rock around which the slow tempos eddied, allowing drummer Angus Agars to add colour and often to play very little very lightly. Eschewing slotting backbeats into everything prevented excessive homogeneity and left more space for us to savour the tales of history and wicked imagination emanating from the mouths of Perkins and Walker.