Jack Carty, Jordan Millar, Leroy Lee @ The Front, Canberra (1/7/11)

Fresh from the big smoke of Sydney, three talented singer-songwriters in the form of Jack Carty, Jordan Millar and Leroy Lee graced the stage of The Front on Friday night, the first stop on the east coast Hope, Smoke and Everything tour.

Leroy Lee got things moving first, impressing the crowd with his instrumental talents, offering up a mixture of guitar, harmonica and banjo along with his softly sweet vocals. Lee road-tested a few new songs on the crowd, the second of which he’d composed the bridge of in the venue just prior to the show – now that’s fresh! Lee’s usual bare feet were socked for this performance, a concession to the slightly cooler Canberra climes, with his usual wooden stomp box replaced by an electronic pressure pad under his heel as he accompanied himself on percussion. The attentive crowd cheered for well-known favourites Mountain Song and Them Bad Apples, and couldn’t help but appreciate the way that Lee made the most of his loop pedal, giving him the ability to throw in a little slide guitar during Drawing Smoke as he finished off his set.

Jordan Millar opened his set with Lies in Translations, his honest vocals accented with percussive taps and pops on the body of his guitar. The catchy Everything, the title track from his latest EP, kept the crowd hanging on his every word, and he invited them further forward to sit closer on the floor by the stage. Enjoying the crowd’s attentiveness, Millar opted for a fully acoustic performance, sans microphone, for the sweet Little Birds which was well-received. Following a cover of Aloe Blacc’s I Need a Dollar, Millar’s Josephine tugged the heartstrings with a tale of love cut short, while Break Me with a Word further highlighted Millar’s diversity and got heads bobbing. The crowd was treated to a range of new material throughout the night, including the first live airing of Millar’s All Too Short to close his performance.

Jack Carty, unlike Leroy Lee, seemed oblivious to the obvious chill in the air and graced the stage barefoot (perhaps the cap on his head helped keep him warm). Regardless, Carty invites the crowd to travel down the road with him, the first few numbers of the set, including the lovely – and new – Travelling Shoes highlighting what it’s like to live out of a suitcase. Carty explains that he’s been doing exactly that for the last few months, touring his latest album, One Thousand Origami Birds. He’s even been to Canberra three times in the past two weeks! He quips, much to the crowd’s amusement, that it must be because he’s become a politician – indeed, the Jack Carty Party has somewhat of a memorable ring to it.

Carty has an impressive catalogue of songs to entertain the crowd, working through gems such as Hope, Levies and the endearing duo of Amber’s Lullaby and Annabel, before wowing the crowd with the emotive Sandakan, written from the point of view of a prisoner of war. Carty followed this up with the title track from latest album, One Thousand Origami Birds, and the sweetly melodic Length of Canada. Love got an airing in The Sailor Song, while The Tempest took the listener on a journey of an artist in a commercial world.

To finish up the night, Carty invited Leroy Lee up on stage to join him for the catchy Valentina, Lee ably offering his support on banjo once more. Not to be outdone, Jordan Millar joined the pair already onstage with his tambourine and to add his vocals to the energetic Them There Hills. Carty, deservedly, was cheered back for an encore and, taking a leaf out of Millar’s book, ditched the microphone for Wine and Consequence to put the finishing touches on the night. Hopefully Canberra will be seeing more of these talented singer-songwriters very soon.