Paul Dempsey has a knack for making the melancholy sound sublime. The Something For Kate frontman’s latest solo album is one of 2016’s finest, and this sold-out show in Adelaide – or “the Kingdom”, as he affectionately calls us – was before a crowd of very dedicated followers.
Most of those in attendance stood in silent rapture before their idol. One of the singer’s strengths is his captivating lyrics, and much of the first five rows could be seen mouthing the words to every single song (except for the two covers that were performed – band favourites by Television and The Pixies). “People say I don’t know how to write a cheerful song,” he quipped rather appropriately. “They’ve got a point, so here’s a song I didn’t write, but this one isn’t going to cheer you up any more.”
Latest offering Strange Loop is a much finer outing, both musically and lyrically, than Dempsey’s first solo effort – although the musician performed songs from both albums during the solid two-hour set. Those expecting him to be in acoustic mode may have been disappointed; for this solo tour the singer gathered a very accomplished four-piece backing band, including support act Olympia contributing keyboard and guitar.
The oval-shaped stage had fans appearing to surround the singer on all sides, leaving him feeling like he was the performing ‘in the round’ – he joked he should be wearing a microphone headset so he could make some ‘Tina Arena-style’ moves.
It was also impressive to see such a diverse range of fans in attendance. The couple in front of me must have been in their late ‘50s, but both were bopping along more enthusiastically than most of the ‘youngsters’ present.
Standouts included the thumping Morningless, the wistful Volunteers (which Dempsey described as being about “that precise moment where you realise you’ve f-cked up everything… You were once so sure, but you’re not anymore”) and new album opener The True Sea, featuring a brilliant guitar solo and lyrics that truly make the ocean feel like a drop in the ocean.