Matt Corby, Alpine, The Trouble With Templeton @ The Tivoli, Brisbane (31/05/2012)

The Trouble With Templeton begin tonight’s proceedings with their own take on the oft-abused genres of roots and folk. Sounding more Boy & Bear than Boy & Bear, (and a little less like Kermit the Frog as Dave Hoskings is prone to do), Thomas Calder fleshing out his exquisite, soaring vocals and powerfully minimalist guitar playing, with a line-up of three, adding restrained lead guitar, delicate female harmonies and ultra-subtle keyboard. Mr or Mrs sound person are a little lax with delivering the contributions of all three members in equal measure. The lead guitar comes in and out of discernibility and the harmonies are but a faint echo in the distance. Midway through the set, this is finally rectified but, as usual, the opening band and their acoustics are the sonic sacrificial lamb. The Tivoli is slowly filling to its sold out status and playing to their home crowd, this band is sure to have won over a host of new fans.

Surely, this is setting the mood for a glorious night of music? Apparently not. The set delivered by Alpine plays the role of “trough” in a night of musical peaks. Crowd favourite, Heartlove, gets a great response and while the sugary indie pop of Alpine translates well on the band’s recordings, the live format is proving to be a challenge. Six members vie for attention on stage and the harmonies of duelling singers, Lou James and Phoebe Baker, struggle to achieve any semblance of accord. Pitch problems plague the pair as does an uncomfortable and overly affected stage presence and indecipherable between-song banter. The rhythm section kicks in half a bar late on two occasions and while mistakes are often missed by unsuspecting audiences, these types of errors are jarring. A shameless plug mid-set for an upcoming and rather large support slot furthers the awkwardness exuded by the two frontwomen and sullies what started out as a glowing night of straight-from-the-heart music.

The lights go down a full 15 minutes before Matt Corby (and his amazing vocal, keys and flute support, Bree Tranter), enters. The crowd is restless and the “oooo ee oo” melody of Brother seems to be some sort of Corby-call that the audience insists on continually yelping. Corby and Tranter enter and embark on a loop-filled journey of impeccable harmonies and absolutely heart-breaking, down-tempo openers spanning his three EP’s. The crowd laugh at their own in-jokes that are unclear from the balcony, while others shriek their apparent love for Dreamy-Eyes Corby, never once giving him the space he deserves to do what he does so well and what they paid for. Channelling the likes of Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan, Corby and Tranter are eventually joined by three more members as he embarks on the more rugged and blues/rock inspired stage of his set with My False as well as a few new tracks he ensures us we are the first to hear live.

Not many people in the audience care, though. They want to hear one song and one song only. When Brother is finally belted out with all of the intensity and ferocity of the recorded version and with an added touch of frustration, people leave as soon as the song ends. They have paid a decent amount of money to see this young musical inspiration play and they leave after their one favourite song. One, two, eight, ten and so on, file out into the street – halfway through the set. Beginning Big Eyes, Corby makes the understandable mistake of assuming tonight’s crowd might want a little insight into the backstory of his songs. Even he, all gentlemen-like Corby, eventually cracks “Fucking settle down,” he says. “There is all of this unwarranted banter between you,” before he attempts to tell a story of his own existential dilemma. Brother doesn’t calm the remaining audience, though, now they call for Lonely Boy – a cover. Corby’s music, even when heard for the first time, and played with expert precision, welcomes the audience, like a long lost aunt, into a sonic world of warmth and familiarity and yet the crowd is squawking for Triple J hit number 2. After a solid hour of music and an obligatory encore, Corby and co. exit the stage with a humble thank you. Don’t thank the thankless, Matt, we thank you.