News and Features
Change from the grunts a step above pub rock by John Shand, Harriet Cunningham
15 December 2005
The Sydney Morning Herald
© 2005 Copyright John Fairfax Holdings Limited. www.smh.com.au Not available for re-distribution.
REVIEWS - ROCK
The Vanguard, December 13
Reviewed by John Shand
What price fame? An alcohol-fuelled woman beside me was there to jeer. She apparently paid her money specifically to wield her secateurs at an Aussie she decided had grown too big for his own good - or perhaps, in some way, for hers.
She laughed and gabbled derisively though the songs, ridiculed Russell Crowe's height, and asked him why he could smoke on stage, when she was not allowed to in the audience.
"It's part of the performance," was Crowe's deadpan response.
Ah, yes, when you could hear it there was a performance going on, and despite the soft target someone like Crowe presents when he steps from the zillion-watt Hollywood glare to a modest little stage in a Newtown bar, it was rather good.
The six-piece backing band retains three members from the last incarnation, but the name has lost its Grunts and become The Ordinary Fear of God. The songs are new, mostly written in collaboration with Canadian guitarist/singer Alan Doyle, and carry occasional echoes of Elvis Costello or Bruce Springsteen, while the likeable title track to the new CD, My Hand, My Heart, nods boozily towards Tom Waits.
Once warmed up, Crowe was chummy
enough, telling entertaining background stories to the songs. The
pick of these - so good it even silenced my neighbour - was Mr Harris,
written for Richard Harris by Crowe on the back of a coaster in a
They had planned to attend an
Australia/Ireland rugby test together, but Harris died before the
match came round. Crowe went anyway, and
Crowe's own voice seemed to grow as the night wore on, until there was ample strength and ample passion to convincingly front a punchy and versatile band, which was a marked step up from mere pub rock.
Russell Crowe performs at the Vanguard every Tuesday until January 24.
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