As 60+ acts ply their musical wares in half-hour showcases dotted all over Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley for BIGSOUND 2012, punters rushed between twelve separate venues to catch as much of the musical goodness as they could.

One such space is the impossibly cramped Ric’s Bar. As you enter off the flashy mall-end of Brunsiwck Street, you realise you’re in the thoroughfare directly between stage and crowd. Or what passes as a stage – a slightly raised platform to the left of the entrance that faces three or four tables at arm’s length on the right.

It’s the perfect setting to experience the self-described ‘spy rock’ of Jeremy Neale. Though he’ll later whip ‘Earth’s mightiest band’, the 12-piece Velociraptor into a frenzy at a larger stage, here in the pit of Ric’s, Neale is charged with delivering his searing 50’s influenced rock n roll in solo mode.

Along with a band in matching grey suits, skinny ties and similarly pencil-necked build, Neale gives a killer set of classic rock, that revitalises pre-British Invasion American song structures, but also it’s attitude – a sense of spit-shine rebellion secreted away in songs about lovers, darlings and broken hearts.

Think of the scene from 90s retro-flick, That Thing You Do, where the newly appointed drummer of ‘The Oh-needers” transforms their saccharine ballad with his racing tempo and rat-a-tat rhythms – Neale’s music is the sound of that sense of discovery.

Though some of the tunes have immensely similar rhythmic and chord patterns, that’s not the point – it’s all about the thrill and energy of the performance. How Neale manages to not sweat up a storm given his frenetic pacing of a Sam Cooke or a Jerry Lee Lewis is a mystery; as lead guitarist Liam Campbell flanks him with some tremendously twanging lines.

The highlight comes with the introduction of saxophonist Sam O’Brien who lends the last three songs his bronzed attack. In particular, the fiery squawk that is the solo for ‘Darlin’, easily one of the most underrated songs to emerge this year.

If the barometer of BIGSOUND Live is about catching those acts ready to break in the most intimate of settings, then Jeremy Neale took the cake. As punters splayed out into the street, gazing enviously through the windows at those close enough to the band they could reach out and tune their guitars – there’s no denying that it was one of the music conference’s best shows.

That, and Neale gave away free vinyl at the end of his show. What’s not to love?

– Al Newstead

Read more BIGSOUND coverage with our BIGSOUND BlogBIGSOUND LIVE 1st Night Wrap-Up, and review of the EMI Music Party.

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