Clare Bowditch

w/ Hot Little Hands, Adam

She had already sold out 15 of her previous dates on her Winter Secrets solo tour and now she had done the same at the Republic Bar in Hobart on a Friday night in July. The ARIA winning Triple J darling Clare Bowditch can certainly pull a crowd, considering that she was playing sans band, The Feeding Set. On that last excursion to Tasmania a few years back she played together with band member Libby Chow (both heavily pregnant at the time) and the crowd was on the lighter side, making that show a little more personal. For this tour she is supported by Hot Little Hands, the side project of another fellow Feeding Setter, Tim Harvey. The Hands, normally a 5 piece, were represented by Harvey on guitar, and keyboardist/trumpeter Raph Hammond and although they were missing the rest of the band they made the best of it. Sometimes they doubled on riffs, other times one would take the bass and the other the rhythm or melody and then swap. They are a bit 80s, a bit Arcade Fire and all gusto in cheap masks.


Clare Bowditch is best heard in person. Each one of her songs is endowed with a time and a place. On her CDs, only one element of her performance is captured, the voice, but she's a lot more than this. In a live context, she takes Now and molds it into melody.


The stage was set up by two very pedantic roadies. The lights were dimmed and a chair was put at the back of the stage on which was a flower filled jug that read "Melk"; the Dutch word for Milk, a clue to her roots. Bowditch flowed into the prepared space resplendent in a frilly edged black dress and faux furs, wearing her very disarming smile. In her hands was a 50s style suitcase, teapot and some fluffy toys. All this paraphernalia seemed almost pretentious but Bowditch exudes a warm confidence, gypsy womanhood and a belief in herself that persuades easily. She started with a tribal welcoming incantation and then played When the Lights Went Down for the singles crowd. This was certainly a good way to get on side with the oft raucous Republic Bar. From there we all sang Oranges with her "I guess I was wondering what you were doing…" In between she told stories in her almost perfect late night radio voice, recontextualising her songs with new meaning in order to keep things fresh. In the months leading up Bowditch had been running a competition for a local unknown to join her on stage at each stop of her tour. Tonight it was Adam's turn, a young singer/songwriter with strong voice and excellent guitar skills. Together they sang Your Other Hand.


The night went quickly. Tim Harvey returned to the spotlight before the end and they sang a wistful duet of I Thought You Were God. The other Hot Little Hand Hammond and Adam were brought back for a take of Kev Carmody's From Little Things, Big Things Grow taking turns at singing the verses with the crowd joining in for the chorus. Sometimes songs that are so anthemic can really resonant and other times they can come off a bit tired. Tonight the song was not carrying the weight that Bowditch would have probably liked it to have.


For the inventive and strangely poignant finale Bowditch cleared the stage and sang Between the Tea and Toast by herself. Finishing off the song she looped her guitar, took the teapot she had arrived on stage with and played it by blowing into the spout using the lid as a tremolo valve. On top of the guitar loop she added layers of this wavering bulbous call resulting in a wall of haunting harmony. And that was it. No encore was given but she didn't need to. Everyone knew she was finished and that she had done what she had set out to do: imparting through song some the beauty and the mystery of what it is to be human.

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