19 Mar 2012
Cambridge – How often do you get to see an artist who is not only a national icon in his native country, but also one of the finest songwriters of our time? And – better yet – how often do you get to see such an artist not in a stadium's binoculared or megascreened distance, but in an intimate venue where all sightlines are good? In the case of Australia's Paul Kelly, who due to his location rarely reaches these shores, the answer is: not often, but every chance you get.
Kelly's latest visit carried an added attraction; his Friday and Saturday shows at Club Passim combined to form one of his A To Z performances, which proceed through the alphabet in order, with each letter represented by at least one of his songs. An idea whose germination was what Kelly calls a happy accident, he's found that the format gives him a new way to perform his songs – to tell stories about their meanings and their origins, and to present them in a stripped-down, unadorned state that's closer to the manner in which they were conceived. That doesn't mean they're reduced to an unvarying species of acoustic folk. If nothing else, Kelly's accompanist (and nephew), Dan Kelly, saw to that with phenomenal electric guitar work that, as called for by the song at hand, was slashing, echoing, ringing, gutbucket, atmospheric, searing, delicate, and astringent.