The Festival Club
Tuesday February 27
Lawrence Arabia (James Milne) here combined with the songwriters from The Phoenix Foundation (Luke Buda and Sam Scott) for an evening of songs from across their catalogues. This included material from the Fabulous/Arabia side-project, Sam Scott’s Bunnies on Ponies band and several new, as yet unreleased, Phoenix Foundation songs.
Rather than play “the hits” the trio’s aim was to possibly dig deep. Unfortunately all that was unearthed was the realisation that for all their skills as songwriters their material thrives when performed in a full-band setting, groove being the secret weapon.
What was intended as a celebration of songs started to feel like a burial – the funereal pace, and too many new/unknown songs, meant the one-hour set-time dragged along.
There were some nice moments, sure. When all three were hunched over keyboards for a song you could see/hear the craft/work – and there was some nice guitar noodling from Buda at times. There weren’t enough songs from the Lawrence Arabia catalogue – but the closing rendition of The Mystery Lair (the first song of his debut, self-titled solo album) was a definite highlight. As was the Fabulous/Arabia track, Ballad of State Highway 1.
The aw-shucks banter ran dangerously close to Flight of the Conchords. Which was, no doubt, a highlight for many. But the whole mood and feel was of a thrown-together thing; agree to the concept then panic a week or two out from showtime…
I’ve seen Sam and Luke together and alone, The Phoenix Foundation and Lawrence Arabia many times. I’m a fan of their works. Just not on this night. It didn’t kick in at all for me. It only highlighted just how much these songs need the dynamics of their usual full-band settings.
A wasted opportunity. A disappointment. A lazy outing.