Josh Pyke has been a darling of the indie music scene since his debut EP release in 2005. Many albums and accolades later, he has returned to the road in support of his latest studio album, But For All These Shrinking Hearts. His performance, supported by finger-picking singer-songwriter Jack Carty, was the 20th date of a demanding 30-show tour, and his fourth performance in four days following the regional leg of his Western Australian dates.
The Northshore Tavern is an interesting setting for an acoustic gig. The faux-beach décor and chatty atmosphere didn’t feel like the kind of place for a hopeless romantic to bear their soul to song. It was a lovely surprise then to feel how strangely intimate the venue became from the opening bars of the supporting act.
Jack Carty was a wise choice as support. Lyrically intelligent and featuring chord changes that closely echoed his early mention of Elliott Smith, the gig was an opportunity to win over a legion of new fans. Demonstrating an array of thoughtful tunes executed beautifully by his wide-ranging voice, Carty won the crowd over quickly and held them for his entire set. Keeping it to a simple acoustic guitar and stompbox combination, Carty let his songs speak for themselves, most notably on Wedding Song and Everything, Unhappily. His set felt effortless, and no doubt triggered a flurry of downloads after the gig.
But it was Josh Pyke the punters had paid to see, and from his first entrance you could see that the audience was on his side. Pyke didn’t disappoint, tearing directly into a fan-friendly duo from his back catalogue with Memories and Dust and Forever Song, and topping it off with his latest sing-along hit Hollering Hearts. The pattern of blending old and new held throughout the evening, and what emerged was a celebration of his body of work, with his fans dancing and singing their way through it.
As a self-produced artist, Pyke has developed a wide array of studio tricks over the years. Cleverly, his live shows have moved with the times. His professional use of live loops, backing tracks, found percussion and even an iPad lent much-needed support to tracks like the electronic There’s A Line, and breathed new life into well-loved classics like Sew My Name. At times, these effects could become overbearing, and newer releases such as Be Your Boy suffered for their absence, but overall there was a nice balance between playing with the production and stripping back to just guitar and voice.
And it was in these moments that Pyke’s music resonated most. When in troubadour mode, the elegance of his lyrics in tunes such as Candle in Your Window, or the energy and exuberance of Make You Happy (performed with Carty on backing vocals) found room to breathe, play and resonate. Pyke’s strength has always been his songwriting, and that delicate combination of strummed guitar and distinctively haunting vocals presents us with his best self.
The evening wasn’t perfect. A head cold had Pyke fighting for notes on the challenging Leeward Side. There was a missed opportunity to use Carty for duets such as Punch In The Heart or All The Very Best Of Us. The Beginning and the End of Everything, my personal favourite of his studio albums, felt woefully unrepresented. But like most beautiful moments, it didn’t have to be perfect. When Pyke closed his set with The Middle of the Hill, his ode to growing up in Australian suburbia, the crowd sang along joyfully, basking in the glow of their shared experience. Good music brings us together, and Pyke has a way of unifying his audience with charm, talent and plain excellent songwriting.
But For All These Shrinking Hearts Tour
Venue: Northshore Tavern | Cnr Whitfords and Marmion Avenue, Hillarys WA
Date: 24 July 2016