“Hey, would you guys like to watch Tim Minchin’s new Album Launch Live tonight?“… It’s the kind of rhetorical email question that deserves an intensely sarcastic response. “Tim Minchin you say? You mean that incredible musical clown who has created some of the greatest comedy songs of our time, not to mention the epic Matilda and Groundhog Day musicals?… I guess, y’know if I can spare, like, five minutes“.
As I raced over the hill to get back home a few random fireworks lit up the early evening sky, a hangover from the weekends Diwali celebrations but, whereas these would normally be out of place, on this night they felt perfectly appropriate.
We hooked up a laptop to our largest monitor and waited for the performance to start. The screen faded in on what might be the most casually stylish sound stage I have ever seen – hardwood floors adorned with Persian style rugs under the central instruments, artistic sound proofing elements, a select crowd around the edges occupying small tables with red lamps and the whole thing bathed in a blue hue giving the place a film noir, jazz club vibe.
Tim kicks things off with a brief introduction, even though this is not intended to be a comedy album he instinctively throws in a few well thought out pieces of observational humour – a thread that would continue throughout the evening.
We kick things off with the almost melancholy “The Absence of You” before switching back to more familiar territory with “Leaving LA” a song that reminded me of Joni Mitchells ‘Big Yellow Taxi‘ or Vanessa Carltons ‘A Thousand Miles‘ but with far more observational humour – the last lines “…just some pretty ugly letters on a pretty ugly hill” should give you an idea of the tone we’re working with.
Next up is ‘Summer Bromance‘ a song about the end of an English Summer in the vein of Tim Minchin classics like ‘White Wine in the Sun‘ and ‘Not Perfect‘. The idea that Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) requires an addendum of complexus noctu (Embrace the Night) certainly resonated with me.
It’s at this point that I should mention the fabulous collection of musicians and support singers who are all absolutely on point. This set has some real big band moments and these guys just take it all in their stride.
The next few songs are a happy blur to listen to, as a fairly melancholy soul myself I did appreciate the lyrics within “I Can’t Save You” and the chaotic composition of “Airport Piano” really gave you that sense of trying to create whilst in a bustling departure lounge.
Before the start of the next track “Beautiful Head” Tim tells us that his biggest musical influences would be Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and his good friend Ben Folds who promptly joins him on stage for this jazz, rock piano duet that really changes the pace and features some pretty epic solo’s.
Up next is one of tracks that I heard when we last saw Tim perform live. “I’ll Take Lonely Tonight” is a song about not having sex with other people – which is essentially the opposite message of almost every pop song being released today. I find this track beautifully sad and it reminds me of a song by Dizraeli and the Small Gods called ‘Maria‘ – both have that haunting quality which really sets them apart and this could have honestly closed the show with it’s big finish.
The remaining songs continue to flip tones in enigmatic fashion but if you haven’t guessed it yet, in my eyes, this album is an absolute winner – so much so that during “Talked Too Much, Stayed Too Long” I actually ordered the limited edition red vinyl on my phone.
Shows like this always make me wish that there was a comedy music festival element to the Edinburgh Fringe. Just a stage set up in the meadows for one day featuring an incredible collection of musical clowns like Lady Carol, Flo & Joan, Bill Bailey, Abandoman, Helen Arney and The Horne Section with Tim Minchin closing the night… what a gig that would be eh!
But that’s enough fantasy from me, this album is worth every penny and if you can get to watch this show I can highly recommend it.
Clown Stars: * * * * *
@Trackdown Studios, Sydney