As the largely middle-aged crowd gathers at the Festival Centre’s Dunstan Playhouse, it’s hard to imagine how Tex Perkins will transfigure himself for a cabaret show with The Dark Horses.
This is the man who, back in the 1980s and 1990s, fronted those loud, woozy pub rockers Beasts of Bourbon, then went on to sing with The Cruel Sea. They were a more textured and eclectic combo which began as an instrumental band – until their lighting technician (Tex) stepped up to sing.
Since then he’s popped up in various incarnations, including Tex, Don and Charlie (with Don Walker from Cold Chisel and Charlie Owens, ex-Divinyls), Ladyboyz (his joke covers band), a Johnny Cash tribute show and, most recently, as a solo act often backed by The Dark Horses.
The Festival Centre is an odd venue for Perkins, especially with a starting time of 7pm. This is cabaret? Devoted fans need not worry: Tex is Tex and there’s no glitz or glitter in sight.
The band’s dressed down (as rock bands do), with the singer sporting a checked, press-button shirt more at home in one of the pubs where he usually plies his trade.
The opening couple of songs are new and not quite settled, though they include the excellent “Tunnel at the End of the Light”. But the musicians are a seasoned crew, featuring Charlie Owen (keyboards and various guitars), Joel Silbersher (electric guitar), Murray Paterson (acoustic guitar), Stephen Hadley (bass) and ex-Adelaidean Gus Agars (drums).
They build beds of warm chords and nuanced licks as the show proceeds, slowly, deliberately. This is really a late-night show, just a few hours early, and the sound is mostly sombre, besides the odd flashes of Tex’s characteristic clowning.
Fine renditions of “She Speaks a Different Language”, “So Much Older”, “Everyone’s Alone” and “Getting Away With It” stood out, as did a cover of the obscure “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”.
The set lasted just 70 minutes, including a two-song encore, at the end of which the crowd was mostly well-satisfied. But there’s only so much music a man with Tex’s large back catalogue can cram into an hour and a bit.
Tex Perkins & The Dark Horses play their final show at the Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, at 9pm tonight (Thursday).
More Adelaide Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.