Review: Orville Peck supported by Gena Rose Bruce at Corner Hotel, Melbourne, January 16th, 2020.
It was only a few months ago that Australian music fans were given the amazing news that enigmatic country musician Orville Peck was set to make his debut on Aussie shores.
Having first made his entrance into the music scene in 2018, Peck shared his debut album, Pony, in 2019, going on to reach the longlist of that year’s Polaris Music Prize.
An amazing release from an equally-admirable artist, there was no doubt that these shows were going to be something truly special, with rave reviews following him at every turn. With performances booked for Tasmania’s Mona Foma and the Sydney Festival, a few headline gigs were also plotted for his visit to the country.
So on Thursday night, Peck made his way into the packed confines of Melbourne’s Corner Hotel to deliver a show that none of his fans would ever forget.
Check out Orville Peck’s ‘Dead Of Night’:
As fans poured into the cosy Richmond venue, it was clear that the influence of Orville Peck’s music and aesthetic had seeped through to his supporters, with countless audience members attending the event decked out in the most amount of cowboy hats and boots you’ll see outside of Texas.
While these same fans were eagerly awaiting the night to kick off, they were soon met by the smooth sounds of Melbourne’s own Gena Rose Bruce. An artist whose music has been heard and loved by countless fans in her hometown, this reception carried over to the evening’s festivities, with Bruce eschewing a full band setup for the assistance of guitarist Cordelia Crosby.
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With their minimal setup of two guitars, and fronted by Bruce’s smooth, inviting voice, the pair powered through a set full of simple yet effective compositions, with ‘Coming Down’ – from Bruce’s debut album Can’t Make You Love Me – introducing newcomers to her masterful craft.
Utilising her enchanting, intoxicating vocals, fans could have been forgiven for thinking they were witnessing the likes of Low or Mazzy Star, or even being transported into the soundtrack of iconic television program Twin Peaks.
Undoubtedly a stunning choice to open a show such as this, if folks weren’t already a fan of Gena Rose Bruce, you can be sure they were by the time they left.
Check out Gena Rose Bruce’s ‘Coming Down’:
As a red curtain covered the stage (fittingly-reminiscent of the cover to Pony), eager chatter from fans featured fervent discussions about the quality of country music today, and just what the real identity of the masked man they were here to see was.
With the evening’s show having been moved to the Corner Hotel from Brunswick’s Howler due to intense demand, it was already clear that there was an abundance of passionate fans in our midsts, but there was no telling just how passionate they would be when the mighty Orville Peck took to the stage.
As the curtain pulled back, little more than a red light was used to illuminate a quintet of mysterious figures. While cheers rung out, the masked frontman made use of his microphone to – in a manner reminiscent of the great Johnny Cash – to simply state, “Hello, I’m Orville Peck.”
Backed by a minimal amount of deep guitarwork, Peck utilised his honey-soaked voice to open the main set with the exceptional ‘Big Sky’, often being drowned out by the eager fans who tries (and failed) to match the inimitable quality of his vocals.
Undoubtedly, it became clear all too quickly that any preconceived notions of what country music is – that is, acoustic guitar, the high lonesome sound, and simple lyrics – were not only being challenged by Peck and his band, but completely subverted to show that not only is country music still a beloved genre, but that there was a whole to new way to play it and experience it.
Check out Orville Peck’s ‘Queen Of The Rodeo’:
Running through tracks like ‘Winds Change’ and ‘Queen Of The Rodeo’, Peck took the time to address the audience, describing the inspiration behind his songs, and sharing jokes, making him appear far more approachable and friendly than what his now iconic mask may infer.
With a sound that evokes memories of legends like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, it was obvious that Peck had learnt from these greats, delivering an equally memorable show that he as an obvious fan of country music would want to see.
Between memorable additions to the set like ‘Kansas (Remembers Me Now)’, ‘Nothing Fades Like The Light’, and the unforgettable ‘Dead Of Night’, Peck took the time to pay homage to the greats, delivering covers of ‘Something To Brag About’ by George Jones & Tammy Wynette, and ‘Ooh Las Vegas’ by Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris, teaming up with Brea Salvede to do so, and undoubtedly performing them in a way that would make the original artists proud.
After treating us to a rendition of new song ‘No Glory In The West’, the presence of ‘Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call)’ signalled that the end was near. Joking with fans due to his whistling skills, and even inviting a fan onstage after he received a Johnny Thunders shirt from the audience member, Peck closed out the set with band introductions that received just as much applause as his own presence did.
Of course, we weren’t done just yet, with Peck and his band returning to truly close out the evening with a rendition of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Fancy’, sending us out into the night with our hearts full of his fondness for one of the genre’s greats.
Check out Orville Peck’s ‘Big Sky’:
When it comes to reading about Orville Peck in the media, it’s hard to escape seeing him boiled down to little more than the words “masked gay cowboy”. However, seeing him onstage, it’s clear he is so much more than just these three words, with his innate ability to unite countless fans with little more than a single syllable serving as something to truly be admired.
A mesmerising performer with talent and charisma that is so apparent that it becomes hard to look away from him for a single moment, Peck is undoubtedly one of the most dedicated, impressive, and endearing performers on the music circuit today.
Though it felt like his debut album came out of nowhere, his performances have been followed by so much critical acclaim that it becomes hard to imagine that anyone would pass up the chance to see such a stunning artist.
With all the shows on his Australian tour having sold out, it’s clear that local fans are in love with Orville Peck, and are already pining for his return (despite the tour still having a few more stops to go).
If you were unable to witness him live on this tour due to it selling out, then that’s completely understandable. However, if you passed up the chance to see him live for any other reason, then please rectify this the next time he visits Australia – you’ll never regret it.
Check out Orville Peck’s ‘Nothing Fades Like The Light’:
Orville Peck @ Corner Hotel, Melbourne 16/01/20 Setlist
‘Queen Of The Rodeo’
‘Roses Are Falling’
‘Turn To Hate’
‘Kansas (Remembers Me Now)’
‘Something To Brag About’ (George Jones & Tammy Wynette cover)
‘Nothing Fades Like The Light’
‘Ooh Las Vegas’ (Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris cover)
‘Dead Of Night’
‘No Glory In The West’
‘Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call)’
‘Fancy’ (Bobbie Gentry cover)
Orville Peck Australia & New Zealand Tour 2020
Saturday, January 18th
Mona Foma, Launceston, TAS
Monday, January 20th
Sydney Festival, Sydney, NSW
Check Orville Peck’s website for more details