On Friday 24 October 2014 The Honeysliders (Australian) played the entire Neil Young album ‘On The Beach’ to a dedicated listening room of 200 people at Soundlounge in Gold Coast. The Honeysliders are a project by singers and guitarists Danny Widdicombe, Ben Salter, and Andrew Morris, of The Wilson Pickers fame. Alongside was Ben Carstens on drums, Dan Mansfield on pedal steel and keys, and Caleb Mangan with body moving bass. Morris also played harmonica and keys, Salter the banjo, and Widdicombe the keys. On The Beach was released 40 years ago and is widely viewed as a seminal Neil Young and folk album.
Andrew Kidman, of Andrew Kidman and The Windy Hills, played Neil Young songs as solo support. At first he was fine. Then, about half way through his set, Kidman drew deeper and brought the audience with him. Kidman’s voice rose, like a hymn, and the people were aroused.
The Honeysliders make music for people who want to be transported to a better place by the live experience. There were certainly Neil Young fans present but I went for what I thought would be quality live music and my hopes were exceeded. The music was crafted by some of Australia’s finest folk/rock performers, lead especially through Widdicombe’s mesmeric electric guitar and Salter’s soul touching vocals and strong presence. Songs were taken in turns. Some suited each singer’s style better than others. Widdicombe’s clear voice sits well across Neil Young’s catalogue with an obvious resemblance in tone and spirit. All band members took turns singing verses of the final track on the album, Ambulance Blues. Drummer Carstens shone in a fragile way that reminded me of Lou Reed’s honesty.
Second set was a selection of the band’s favourite Neil Young songs. Some prepared, then some half improvised as the band continued to satiate the crowd who were up front dancing, making those unintelligible sounds that translate into near overwhelming delight and appreciation.
Saturday night, The Honeysliders did it all again at The Zoo in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. Luke Peacock was solo support with a strong and individual voice. It was another adoring audience who were reluctant to let the band leave, loudly demanding an encore. At times, The Honeysliders’ on stage comments seemed to underrate themselves, which hinted at weariness. Many people present were musicians and/or Neil Young followers who mostly listened and left upbeat and impressed.
I hope The Honeysliders regroup to perform again, with verve. They suit audiences who enjoy witnessing musicians and singers translate their inspiration, through their refined skills, into audible magic. A recommended live experience.