Bearing witness to something incredible within its natural environment is a truly wondrous thing. Coffee always tastes better first thing in the morning, grasped between two cold hands. Roaring fires provide the perfect accompaniment to cold wintry days. Wildlife is best appreciated in the remotest parts of nature. This is not to say that the experiences outside these natural settings wouldn’t be enjoyable, but they just don’t feel as balanced as they would otherwise be.
So was the fortunate experience of witnessing Pete Molinari at Ric’s Bar in Brisbane. While seeing him three days previously at The Living Room in support of Ash Grunwald was pure magic, his latter performance was more fluid, more ‘in the moment’, and felt more him.
For any support artist, as Molinari was to Grunwald, it must be a unique experience to perform to a crowd that are obviously not there to see you and may or may not give themselves the chance to appreciate your performance. While the crowd gradually grew in numbers during Molinari’s performance, it was obvious that the majority were more interested in enjoying a not so quiet ale until Grunwald arrived.
That need to get the right mix of venue, crowd and artist was obviously a dilemma Molinari had recently faced. Taking to the stage for his solo set at Ric’s he mentioned that it had been strange for him because he had been playing a lot of surf gigs. He spoke of the audience reaction, ‘The more they liked it, the more I didn’t like it, and then the more they seemed to like it. In the end we came to a mutual decision and we both kind of liked it…this venue is much more my style, it’s very New York.’
At Ric’s, Molinari was the starring act. When he started playing his guitar and singing his tunes, people passing by were lured in, unable to resist the call and charm of his songs. Telling us that he hadn’t even had a chance to put together a set list for today, he appeared to be completely relaxed and turned in a sublimely attuned set which included some tracks from his album (Walking Off The Map), some tracks not yet released and some excellent covers.
Starting with a track from his album, ‘Love Lies Bleeding’, this is a song which exudes a subtle delicacy in both lyrics and melody. The feelings and sentiment it conveys hang in the air and leaves listeners in awe of its sad and soulful charm. Then to one of his yet to be released tracks, ‘New York City’, which is a lament to all that is loved and loathed about a city, the days when it can seem like your best friend or your worst enemy, but through it all the city is always there. Another yet to be released track, ‘The Man That I am’ is like experiencing a folksy blue embrace. Filled with yearning, hope and honesty, this is a ‘real’ song delivered with poetic rawness, and accompanied by some emotive harmonica playing.
Covering the classics in charming style, Molinari delivered a richly textured rendition of Hank Williams ‘My Heart Would Know’. Like everything he sings this song in a way which strikes right to the heart, and in captivating fashion so that time feels like it stands still while it too pauses to appreciate Molinari. Getting in touch with his European heritage, Molinari launched into a beautiful and intensely energetic version of ‘Marina’, performing verses in both English and Italian. With his unique and wondrously real vocals, Molinari had the girls dancing and the guys tapping their feet. Then sampling a bit from the country side of the tracks, Molinari closed his set with some Cash. His ability to be very much in a moment, all heart and soul, is what helps to make his version of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ so spine tingling good.
Molinari is a masterful performer, snappy dresser and all round nice guy…the spirits are contented, the world breathes easy and all is as it should be.