Tex Perkins is the master of maturation.
Since the ’80s, the Darwin-born but now Melbourne-based singer has fronted bands such as The Cruel Sea, Beasts of Bourbon, Tex Deadly and the Dum-Dums, plus a whole host of others, and has become known for his gravelly baritone chops and crooning about love, getting lost and the outback. If these projects weren’t enough, just over a decade ago Perkins debuted his now perennial Man in Black show, where he and a backing band perform devastatingly good Johnny Cash covers such as “Ring of Fire“ and “Sunday Morning Coming Down“.
But on Sunday evening in The Garden of Unearthly Delights’ Spiegeltent, Adelaide Fringe audiences witnessed something old but very new from the artist – a range of unreleased material written with guitarist Matt Walker.
Alongside classics such as the chart-topping “This is Not the Way Home”, which had the crowd thumping on the venue’s wooden floorboards, and an homage to our “completely and morally bankrupt” Prime Minister with the raucous “The Honeymoon is Over”, the 60-minute show proved Perkins could also explore uncharted territory as an evolving artist with a set of unpublished songs.
Walker, an established blues musician who has toured with the likes of Bob Dylan and Patti Smith, provided polished backing vocals as well showing his skills on slide guitar.
“Here’s another track off our fabulous album that may never get released,” Perkins told the crowd with a wink. Although the new songs sound similar to Perkins’ earlier rock and blues records, with a lot of reverb, vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar, lyrically they go somewhere deeper.
The shiniest part of the oeuvre was the swansong of the evening, where instead of singing about a girl, Perkins turned his attention towards the person who brought him into the world: his mum.
“I would like to dedicate this song to all the mothers out there,” he said, breaking from his upbeat persona. “I lost my own mum a couple of weeks ago… I sang this song by her bedside.”
What followed was a moving performance that had this reviewer’s own mother in tears, and proved Perkins is one of those musicians who doesn’t exist in a time capsule. Even after his ’90s heyday of performing at festivals alongside luminaries such as Nirvana, Iggy Pop and Sonic Youth, he is still a relevant bonafide and brutal artist.
Tex Perkins and Matt Walker performed at the Adelaide Fringe for one night only.
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