Carmen Smith opened for Diesel, suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune a support act, it seems, traditionally, must: singing up a soulful storm, with her original material, which proved barely audible over the inane, insistent humdrum of cordial convo. Still, I heard enough to be suitably impressed: your next chance to see her might be in yet another production of Rent; meanwhile, I highly commend you at least listen to her live performance (at The Basement) of Can’t Lose, on her myspace.
Diesel’s latest touring ‘device’ is one wherein the audience is given a songlist and he tailors his set according to the prevailing preferences. It’s a pretty cool idea and one we might expect from a man who seems to have a keen sense of his own destiny. Consequently, we were treated to (deservedly) perennial faves and a few real surprises. In the former camp, full-on renditions (does Mark Denis Lizotte know any other way) of platinum-plated classics like 15 Feet Of Snow, from Solid State Rhyme; Come To Me, from Hepfidelity & the timeless Cry In Shame, from his debut name and album, Johnny Diesel & The Injectors. All these, and more, shape-up superbly, and Diesel milks ‘em for all they’re worth, with his totally self-assured, rhythmic guitar stylings and powerhouse vocals. Indeed, you’d have to be positively robotic not to respond, even if you were utterly unfamiliar with his very considerable body of work. The most persuasive part is Diesel himself still seems to be 110% passionate about his music. And others, in which he exhibits excellent, if eclectic taste: including a wrenching version of Burt Bacharach’s Walk On By, reverential homage to Neil Young’s Don’t let It Bring You Down & gutsy delivery of Muddy Waters’ Catfish Blues.
Familiarity and commercial over-exposure, far from breeding customary contempt, haven’t dimmed either the luminosity of songs, or performer, in the unusual case of (Johnny) Mark Denis ‘Diesel’ Lizotte, who, at a shade over 40, still looks, sounds and ‘feels’ 20. It’s hard to surpass the craft of, say, All Come Together (from Solid State Rhyme) or his bravely individualistic, loving recreations of B J Thomas’ Everybody’s Talkin’ or dramatic rewrite of Bobbie Gentry’s Ode To Billy Joe. And it’s damn difficult to imagine greater musical or vocal proficiency than JMDDL sports, without fanfare or fuss.
Diesel, lest we forget, is still in his prime. The sun’s still shining in his room. And if the full-throated screams of the girl behind us, the odd shout of ‘you’re a legend, Diesel!’, or the ovations are anything to go by, I’m not exactly Robinson Crusoe in believing so.
Venue: Club Swans | 28 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross NSW
Date: 17 May 2008
Bookings: Ticketek and at the door