Half Seas Over | Jeff Lang

Jeff LangPhoto - Alison Ferrier

He was introduced as ‘the incomparable Jeff Lang,’ which seemed appropriate. Lang’s eye-popping slide guitar work and folk/blues/roots influences could place him in the same category as John Butler or Xavier Rudd, but that doesn’t quite fit for this particular guitar wizard. His light vocals, casual stage presence and free-flowing sets signal that this is an artist who has something different to offer. Lang’s relaxed attitude only adds to the effect when he unleashes one of his guitar solos, displaying power and accuracy more reminiscent of a classical virtuoso than a laid-back folk singer.

Before Lang stepped on stage at the Street Theatre, we were treated to the talents of Kara Grainger, an Australian-born singer-songwriter whose debut album, ‘Grand and Green River,’ was released last week. Grainger’s vocals have a fresh, effortless quality, yet her range and precision hint at years of experience. Her guitar work, while occasionally slipping below the standard of her singing, also won over many in the crowd.

With the audience suitably charmed, Jeff Lang appeared between the wide variety of guitars waiting on stage. Lang’s set began with the first two songs off his new album, 'Half Seas Over.' Southern Highlands Daughter brought on the first mid-song cheer of the evening, and this was closely followed by appreciation for the stinging energy of Copper Mine. From here the set rambled through a wide range of genres, including blues, roots, traditional folk songs and even a dash of the psychedelic. Lang can work the guitar strings with the best of them, but he also knows how to stretch the limits of an effects pedal, creating some truly mind-bending soundscapes.

Throughout the set Lang was supported by Grant Cummerford, a formidable bassist who does more than simply keep up with the lead guitar. His double bass and bass guitar work provided a strong backbone to Lang’s arrangements, and Cummerford didn’t flinch when the music called for agility and speed. Towards the end of the set, Kara Grainger stepped back up to the microphone. While there were a few nervous moments, the three musicians managed to compliment each other’s strengths and avoid drowning anybody out.

Lang worked hard to create a rapport with his audience, but at times it seemed as if we were watching him in the wrong venue. The formality of the Street Theatre seemed to sap some of Lang’s enthusiasm. At the same time, the theatre did allow for wonderfully clear sound, with every scratch, strum and twang audible throughout the set. And there’s always something to be said for a full-audience synchronised clap-along, not matter how formal the setting.

Performers like Jeff Lang and Kara Grainger aren’t traditional crowd-pleasers, as they do require attention and appreciation for instrumental prowess from their audience.That said, their talents ensured this never felt like an effort, and there was plenty of fun to be had between gasps of amazement. The Half Seas Over national tour is sure to hold many more audiences under its spell and leave their fingers sore just from watching.

Half Seas Over
Jeff Lang

 Venue: The Street Theatre | Cnr Childers St & University Ave, Canberra City West
Dates: June 1st
Times: 8.00pm
Info: www.thestreet.org.au

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