Review: Augie March supported by Grand Salvo at Howler, Melbourne, August 25th, 2019

Ask any fan of Australian music and they’ll likely agree that Augie March are one of the most underrated bands in the country’s musical history.

Sure, they might have topped triple j’s Hottest 100 in 2006, and they’ve been fixtures of the ARIA charts, but how often do you hear them talked about around a round of drinks down the pub, while punters chat about their favourite live shows?

Early in July, Augie March announced that they would be hitting the road in August, touring around the country to show why exactly they’re one of the country’s greatest bands.

Stripping things back a bit, the band’s ‘On The Quiet’ tour would see them take a loose and informal approach to their acclaimed repertoire with a series of largely acoustic performances.

Revisiting the notion from a decade earlier, the group wrapped up this long-awaited tour with a return visit to Melbourne on Sunday night, turning the Brunswick venue of Howler into a veritable shrine for lovers of great Aussie tunes.

Check out Augie March’s ‘When I Am Old’:

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As the crowd poured into the suburban venue, they were met with a rather unique setup, as subdued lighting was provided by lamps, surrounded by grandiose instrumentation, including the likes of harps and a cello.

If anything, fans could have been forgiven for thinking they had just made a wrong turn on their way in, entering the homely practice room of a band who would soon join us in their cosy pyjamas.

Before long though, we were joined by Grand Salvo, the recording project of Melbourne’s Paddy Mann, who was tonight backed by a devastatingly-talented quartet of local musicians.

Kicking things off with some the aforementioned eclectic instrumentation, it took almost no time for fans to fall in love with the humble indie-folk stylings of the acclaimed Grand Salvo, as we marvelled at what sounded like a mesmerising mix between The Decemberists and Nick Drake.

As members of the crowd soon sat down at the front of the stage to watch in comfort, these gorgeous tracks continued to pour out of the band, with their tender tunes often overpowered by the ambient noise of the chattering audience the next room over.

Thankfully, this didn’t put a dampener on any of the evening’s proceedings, with this far-too-short selection of songs undoubtedly offering fans an insight into the back catalogue of this stunning project, and clearly seeing some audience members find themselves a new favourite artist along the way.

Check out ‘The boy’s story of his faithful family dog.’ by Grand Salvo:

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After the traditional period of setting up, a group of familiar faces soon graced us with their presence, with Augie March making their welcome return to the Melbourne stage. Sure, they might have played two Victorian shows earlier in the tour, but not on this side of the Yarra.

Kicking things off with ‘Sunstroke House’ from Strange Bird, it was clear that a show of Augie March’s calibre has been missing from the live stage for some time. Armed with little more than acoustic guitars, a banjo, a keyboard, and drums, these songs quickly found themselves transformed into something special, with harmonised vocals giving way to applause louder than the band themselves.

As the set continued though, the group dashed through tracks new and old, offering fans a chance to hear them in a brand new light, or at least a light not heard for some time.

By the time they reached ‘The Slant’ though, it was clear that this was what this tour was meant for, with gorgeous finger-picked guitar being joined by dulcet tones of the piano, delivering a sombre take on the track that would move even the most stone-hearted.

Complementing the performances of these tunes though was the classic Augie March banter, with Glenn Richards and David Williams trading off jokes, as fans looked on adoringly as if they were welcoming old friends back into their living room.

Check out Augie March’s ‘The Slant’:

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While new classics like ‘When I Am Old’ and ‘Marienbad’ offered up a look into the band’s recent history, the older fan favourites were in no way overlooked, as iconic tunes like ‘One Crowded Hour’ and ‘This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers’ showed why exactly Augie March are so revered amongst their fans.

As Glenn Richards teased us with an announcement of something he never got around to revealing, the luscious set was topped off by the immersive ‘There Is No Such Place’, before a fan request for ‘Here Comes The Night’ fittingly sent us out into the night.

Though it could be easy to imagine Augie March classics simply reimagined by the simple addition of an acoustic guitar, or the replacement of drumsticks with brushes, it goes without saying that their ‘On The Quiet’ tour is something fans needed to see to truly experience.

Whether it’s the gorgeous interplay of acoustic guitar and piano, or the haunting isolation of Glenn Richards’ vocals before a simple instrumental melody soon returns into the mix, there’s no denying the raw power and emotion that their live show holds.

2019 marked the 10-year anniversary of the first ‘On The Quiet’ tour, but following this example of pure brilliance, fans are clearly hoping that Richards’ promise of “more shows like this” in the near future will ring true, lest we wait another decade to experience something of this calibre by one of Australia’s greatest bands.

Check out Augie March’s ‘There Is No Such Place’:

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Augie March @ Howler, Melbourne 25/8/19 Setlist

‘Sunstroke House’
‘The Third Drink’
‘The Cold Acre’
‘Hobart Obit’
‘I Hurtle Back To A Conservative Locker’
‘Rich Girl’
‘The Slant’
‘When I Am Old’
‘The Vineyard’
‘Just Passing Through’
‘Marienbad’
‘Maroondah Reservoir’
‘One Crowded Hour’
‘This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers’
‘Bottle Baby’
‘There Is No Such Place’
‘Here Comes The Night’