iTunes LIVE feat. PAUL DEMPSEY – Apple Store, George St (18.8.09)


The last time I attended an iTunes LIVE gig at the Apple Store, it was last year’s now legendary performance by The Presets. Many of those who had been lucky enough to make it inside had been waiting all day. Last night’s Paul Dempsey performance, however, was far more low key – patrons able to wander in just minutes before he began (including myself, who had to dart down from the Vignettes gig at QBAR… proof you can be two places at once!). An appropriate start to the relaxed atmosphere encompassing the following hour of music!

While Paul Dempsey’s new solo album, Everything is True, features plenty of backing track action (just a quick listen to “Ramona was a Waitress” showcases the excellent production on the album), he was very much solo this evening. Just Paul Dempsey, a couple hundred fans, his guitar – all together in a glass cube (as he called it… although I prefer “glass case of emotion”). Here, he was often being playful with curious passers-by outside the store, and at other times, feeling feeling like he was in an AC/DC video clip. In one humorous moment, a man looked in the store, Paul turned, waved, and the man walked away. Paul then noted how easy it was to satisfy some people. With such banter and audience interaction making its way into his 10 song set (often as he tuned his guitar for the next song… it was being recorded after all), Paul was definitely able to show off plenty of his funny side!

With the exception of a cover of Kim Carnes’ “She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes” (and a humorous story about organ transplantation to go along with it) the set was comprised entirely of tracks off his new album. The singles “Out the Airlock” and the illustrious “Ramona was a Waitress” already have proven how different, yet strangely similar, these solo tracks are to his Something For Kate compositions. There’s a quiet power that exists in these new songs that I never found with Something for Kate – a band I considered fairly boring both live and on record. Such power exists both vocally, lyrically and in the musical accompaniment.

While “Ramona Was a Waitress” showcases the more playful, almost ‘dancey’ side to his new album (indeed, remixes are already popping up), tracks like “Bird in a Basement” emphasise the raw power of said voice and lyric. As he sung the closing lyric to Bird, “Hey living thing, you’re breathing again”, his voice got louder, and louder, leaving it to echo off the walls of the Apple Store, covering this reviewer’s arms with goosebumps in the process. Some audience members couldn’t help but cheer each time he repeated the lyric. Such power proved what can be done with nothing but an acoustic guitar and an incredibly talented, impeccable voice.

As he walked off the stage after “Safety in Numbness”, I couldn’t help but feel satisfied by the preceding hour – and this could have easily gone the other way. And with the gig solidifying this fact, I can now confidently say I’m fan of Dempsey’s solo effort. Something for Who?

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.