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by reception
posted 29/05/2019

REVIEW: Billie McCarthy @ Lazy Bones Lounge

Billie McCarthy – Live @ Lazy Bones Lunge, Marrickville 28 May 2019

Reviewed by Bibi of Queer For Your Ears

Every time she plays live, Billie McCarthy digs deep and delivers. And the original songs in her set are always the best, laced with acerbic, right-on lyrics that land, written on arrangements that are simple, soulful and bound to get feet tapping.

But whether she’s in back-to-back track or songs and stories / cabaret mode, it’s Billie’s absolute fearlessness that’s the through line. On a freezing, blustery night in Marrickville, in front of a smallish crowd, a lesser artist may have skipped one or two of the darker offerings, but we are totally glad that Billie did not. This singer is at her most powerful when walking us into heartache and pain. But like all the greats she could be compared to – Billie Holiday, Big Mama Thornton, and more locally, Renee Geyer maybe too – there is always redemption. We ‘re always lifted up again. A completely new arrangement played for the first time tonight – Radar – is a sublime example.

Only a few weeks ago, on Queer for Your Ears at Eastside Radio, we selected Billie’s sweet, light and rollicking little number Jasmine, not remembering at first which release it was from. When it popped up in the show, we found ourselves tapping toes and swinging heads back and forth, smiling. It’s so uplifting in spirit with a touch of cheeky smart-arseness that is another of Billie’s trademarks. Anyway – the song gets to near the end and we hear laughter on the track, then warm applause at its end. Of course, it’s her live audience digging her humour and fully appreciating her talent. But her voice is so pitch perfect, and the music so crisp, we’d completely forgotten the track was from her live release Live at 107. If you haven’t heard this, you must. It’s more proof of two things – the high calibre of musicians Billie McCarthy constantly draws to her, and just how underrated she is as a live performer.

And, speaking of musicians – last night they were Dan Pliner on keys, Adm Ventura on bass, and Tully Ryan on drums. These must be three of the hardest working musicians in Sydney. Their ensemble improvised effort as the opening act was superb. Through funky syncopation, jumpy melodies, and swirling ascendancies, other-worldly landscapes hit us head on. Dream inducing stuff, and a perfect match for the pinot noir, and the cosy lamp-lit lusciousness of the lounge surrounds. These boys play there at Lazy Bones every Tuesday night, and have done for five years!

If you need warming up this Winter, try Tuesdays here! As Billie’s band, these boys impress even more. Tight as. Highlights on the night are the sparse but sultry Soaking Wet which Billie co-wrote with Dan March, and one that she was trying for the first time right there in front of us – Radar. It’s short but it soars, and it’s more proof of the thesis we started with here – Billie McCarthy’s not afraid to take us into the dark. But when she gets us there, she moves us, makes us shed a tear, but ultimately affirms life.

I think she just likes killing me softly …

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