Having impressed none other than the great Odetta during his time in New York, the immensely talented Vincent Cross is in Melbourne for some intimate shows. Paula de Angelis writes about a spellbinding set she caught yesterday.
The Retreat Hotel is a classic Melbourne pub with a dedication to live music, a type of venue that has almost disappeared under the weight of wine bars and yuppie-induced noise restrictions. Brown carpet, bar stools and wooden furniture, music posters everywhere. Arriving to the sounds of Vincent Cross sporting a newly acquired Akubra and making beautiful blues on his 1955 Martin acoustic guitar (I can hear all the musicians drooling), invoked memories of a mis-spent youth amongst the inner-city pubs that housed a vibrant local live music scene.
It was an auspicious beginning to a gig that was musically impressive, with stories both funny and moving, that left us with a warm appreciation for the type of music he loves to share.
Vincent Cross has a talent for drawing the attention of his audience. Over the course of the two-hour show the background chatter faded away, the audience enticed into listening closely by the virtuoso guitar picking, the grandeur and originality of the ideas he explored, and the intimate rapport that he projected.
Vincent Cross plays again at the Retreat Hotel tonight, and a house concert on Tuesday, which I will unfortunately miss, because he has a style ideally designed for such a venue. He made the audience feel as if the front bar of the Retreat was in fact his lounge room, and we were all hanging out with a friend.
Passionately enthusiastic about his craft and genre, the show doubled as a personal tour through the history and craft of an old, grassroots musical tradition. In between songs, Vincent displayed a talent for storytelling that combined very personal descriptions of the origins and meanings of his songs with a self-deprecating and slightly geeky sense of humour, and an obvious enthusiasm for thinking about music and its history and meaning.
Vincent’s lyrics are more poetry than anything else, a legacy of a childhood and adolescence spent in Ireland. “Living in Ireland taught me what words are really for”, he told me later on, and there is certainly an Irish feel to the way he constructs imagery that is vivid and sophisticated yet beautifully relatable. He works just as hard on his songcraft as his music. The rendition of “Sometimes”, a song about “what success and failure means to an artist”, on his latest CD, A Town Called Normal, had a particular appeal. Several members of the audience purchased CDs on the strength of their response to it, and made a point of saying so.
Born in Dublin, Vincent Cross lived in Sydney until the age of 10. This is Vincent’s first visit to Australia since his parents returned to their country to start a pub when he was ten, and the tour has been a moving and profound experience for him. It has confirmed for him that Australia is “spiritual home”. I was very pleased to be able to welcome this accomplished, intelligent and charming performer to our shores, and you will be too.
First published on Occupied with Song
Bookings still available for Vincent Cross House Concert, Kew on Tuesday, August 12.