Review: Paul Dempsey at the Corner Hotel, Melbourne, December 6th, 2018

For Melbourne music fans, seeing one of their favourite sons return to the live stage is an unmissable thrill. Understandably, when Paul Dempsey announced a one-off performance at Melbourne’s Recital Centre for last month, insatiable fans were quick to snap those tickets up.

To cope with the demand, the iconic musician announced another show at a venue he knows like the back of his hand; Richmond’s Corner Hotel. So, on Thursday night, a horde of Dempsey’s dedicated fans made their way into the confines of the famed venue for a night that they wouldn’t soon forget.

Check out Paul Dempsey’s ‘Ramona Was A Waitress’:

YouTube VideoPlay

As music fans slowly trickled into the Corner Hotel on Thursday night, seeking cool refuge from the heat outside, they could tell that this evening was set to be special. With a fashion history Paul Dempsey and Something For Kate shirts as far as the eye could see, it was clear that everyone was excited for the evening’s main event.

However, kicking things off for the evening was the inimitable Tom Lyngcoln – known to many as the frontman for bands such as The Nation Blue and Harmony.

Jumping into cuts from debut solo record, Lyngcoln’s strong vocals cut through the idle chatter of the audience, commanding their attention, and choosing not to let up for a single second.

Accompanied by just an electric guitar, his playing was frequently melodic, often dissonant, but always striving to evoke strong emotions with every strum.

Performing alongside a colourful video display, Lyngcoln’s performance varied from frenetic urgency to longer, more atmospheric periods of guitarwork. On a few occasions, his ability to masterfully pair a constant bassline with a distorted guitar solo did not go unnoticed by the crowd, receiving riotous applause each time.

With Tom Lyngcoln undoubtedly served as a strong opener for the evening, it was clear that some of the audience members had found themselves a new artist to listen to from now on, while others basked in the familiar sounds of his exceptional work.

Check out Tom Lyngcoln’s ‘Gemini Orion’:

YouTube VideoPlay

Following a brief intermission, the Corner’s famous red curtain pulled back to reveal bright red lights, as the sounds of Dean Martin’s ‘Ain’t That A Kick In The Head’ filled the venue. Soon, the stage was darkened by the towering figure that is Paul Dempsey, as his sheer joy of seeing so many familiar faces was plastered all over his own.

“That’s a room full of people applauding a man with a confused look on his face,” he joked, “This is Thursday done right, but wait until I start playing music.”

With casual laughter subsiding, Dempsey began strumming his guitar, instantly tearing into a rendition of Something For Kate’s breakthrough single, ‘Captain (Million Miles An Hour)’.

Almost immediately, it became clear what the appeal of one of Dempsey’s acclaimed acoustic shows is, with the indie-rock fuzz of the original being stripped away, laying bare the tender, poetic lyrics that dwell beneath.

Paul Dempsey might have only been playing for less than a minute by this point, but it was clear this would be a gig of the year for many.

After joking with the crowd between songs, Dempsey brought out a handful Something For Kate tracks, and began to reminisce on past gigs at the Corner.

Performing crowd favourites such as ‘Working Against Me’ and ‘Back To You’, Dempsey noted the last time these tunes had been played acoustically might have been in the venue’s front bar, to a crowd of 50, while he was performing under the name ‘Hawaiian Robot’.

Check out Something For Kate’s ‘Back To You’:

YouTube VideoPlay

Between performing new tracks from his 2016 record, Strange Loop, Paul Dempsey borrowed heavily from his Everything Is True debut, peppering the setlist with familiar covers and fan favourites.

Following a cover of World Party’s ‘Ship Of Fools’, the entirety of the Corner Hotel joined in for a singalong of ‘Ramona Was A Waitress’, before sharing in chanting the unsettling subject matter of ‘Out The Airlock’.

Throughout the set though, it was clear that Dempsey was in his element, taking the time to thank the crowd with utmost sincerity for allowing him to do what he does for over 20 years.

Following an absolutely mesmerising cover of David Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars?’, a new Something For Kate song was also previewed to the eager crowd.

While lucky punters had also seen the track performed at the Melbourne Recital Centre last month, Dempsey assured the audience that a new album from the group was on its way, noting it was taking longer than it should.

Check out Paul Dempsey’s ‘Out The Airlock’:

YouTube VideoPlay

Stunning the crowd with a play-through of 2016’s ‘Volunteers’, Paul Dempsey found himself faced with a joking request for Daddy Cool’s ‘Eagle Rock’. Soon, he’d made good on this jovial inquiry, performing the first half of the track to the crowd, before leading a deafening singalong with Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Free’.

After closing out the main set with ‘Idiot Oracle’ and ‘Safety In Numbness’, Dempsey happened upon some of those dreaded technical issues during his performance of ‘Theme From Nice Guy’.

Having damaged his guitar during an impromptu percussive section, the audience were quick to lead a chant of the song’s chorus as Dempsey switched guitars. If we ever needed any idea of his consummate professionalism, we needn’t look further than his ability to jump back into the song, barely missing a beat.

Check out Paul Dempsey’s ‘Theme From Nice Guy’:

YouTube VideoPlay

As chants for performances of ‘Pinstripe’ and ‘Truly’ (sadly) fell on deaf ears, Dempsey returned to the stage to cap off the evening with typically-stunning versions of ‘Bird In A Basement’, Sam Brown’s ‘Stop’, and ‘The True Sea’.

As fans slowly filtered out of the venue, it was clear that many were reflecting on the brilliance of what they had witnessed, wondering just how so much talent could be packaged into the 6’5″ being that is Paul Dempsey.

While the evening might have featured a small hiccup during ‘Theme From Nice Guy’, one thing was painfully clear; there is no such thing as a bad Paul Dempsey show. Even Dempsey’s worst nights – if such things exist – are streets ahead of what most artists dream of, and his best performances are something of legend.

It was clear to almost everyone who entered the Corner Hotel on Thursday night that they had witnessed something special, from the eclectic setlist, to the passionate performance, and even to his verbose, poetic lyrics that were chanted back with sheer dedication by his fans.

Paul Dempsey is a national treasure, and his live shows just prove why he is one of the greatest musicians alive today.

Check out Paul Dempsey’s ‘The True Sea’:

YouTube VideoPlay

Paul Dempsey @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne 6/12/18 Setlist

‘Captain (Million Miles An Hour)’ (Something For Kate song)
‘The Great Optimist’
‘Working Against Me’ (Something For Kate song)
‘Lifetime Supply’
‘Strange Loop’
‘Fast Friends’
‘Hey History (Don’t Go Changin’)’
‘Ship Of Fools’ (World Party cover)
‘Back To You’ (Something For Kate song)
‘Ramona Was A Waitress’
‘Out The Airlock’
‘Life On Mars?’ (David Bowie cover)
(New Something For Kate song)
‘Eagle Rock’ (Daddy Cool cover)
‘I Want To Break Free’ (Queen cover)
‘Idiot Oracle’
‘Safety In Numbness’
‘Theme From Nice Guy’


‘Bird In A Basement’
‘Stop’ (Sam Brown cover)
‘The True Sea’

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine