Much like how actors and actresses have trouble getting out of a typecast roles, musicians are often unable to get out from under the music of their previous bands. This is especially true for artists who have been involved in massive bands, bands say for example, like Powderfinger. Yet, Darren Middleton is one artist who has managed to break the mould, and is blessed to be able to fuse the legacy of his Powderfinger hits, with his own explosive solo career. Friday marked the official launch of Darren’s third studio album Tides, celebrating the occasion by bringing along fellow musicians, Ashley Naylor (who also featured in Darren’s band) and up-and-coming Melbourne artist Taylah Carroll for a show at Melbourne’s Northcote Social Club.
Taylah Carroll opened the evening with poise and grace as her introspective tracks helped place a calm ease over the bubbling crowd in Northcote. Her set was brief, but the blossoming Melbourne artist seemed not to mind as she showcased a select few songs and displayed her skill as a songwriter.
Ashley Naylor, was the evening’s main support act, and the former guitarist and vocalist for Even looked comfortable on the stage, often joking about his time as a musician. Naylor provided a full performance, displaying his skills with the guitar through a myriad of covers and originals, including The Smiths’ “Ask” as well as a track from his Even days: “Return To Stardust”. A standout moment was a stirring cover of R.E.M’s “Find The River”, which froze everyone in the room, caught up in Naylor’s guitar prowess as he broke into a ravishing guitar solo. Overall, it was a brilliant set and the absence of fellow musicians didn’t register for a second, controlling the room as he did, all on his lonesome.
Following years of being in the spotlight as one of Australia’s leading guitar players, it seems Darren Middleton has finally been able to relax and enjoy this next stage of his music career. The opening night for this third album, Tides was reflective of this, with Darren mixing up the setlist, breaking into solos at the drop of a hat; and seemingly enjoying every moment of it. The boisterous crowd was with him at every turn on the stage and every strum of his guitar, as fans of both his early works and this new album turned up to see this wizard with a guitar. Opening with “One Thing” from 2013’s Translations, the song provided Middleton with a good platform to leap into newer works, whilst also reaffirming his ability with the guitar. With solos exploding through the middle of the track, the crowd were quickly reminded why he was at Australia’s forefront for so long.
The set list for the evening was a long one, and showcased many of the stories that Darren had captured since moving on from Powderfinger. There was also room for a few favourite covers too, with a rendition of Split Enz “I Got You” a particular standout. Linda Bull, who along with her sister Vika features on the new album, also appeared on stage throughout the set as a special guest. “Ghost & Memories” was a particularly poignant moment between the two artists, with Bull helping propel the closing track off of the most recent album to new heights live. The duo’s harmonies were absolute, their flowing vocals lulling and entrancing the crowd.
Middleton and his band combined well, further showcasing and accentuating his songwriting ability. His solos were enthusiastic, sometimes tender, and always full of life. His guitar playing was compelling and corralled the crowd ever closer to the stage and further into his music embrace. The Melbourne audience were even treated to a little throwback to his Powderfinger days, explaining he did sing a track on Internationalist. Which was timely given the album has just celebrated its twentieth anniversary. The track in question, “Over My Head”, clearly meant a lot to the crowd, but the magic of the evening was that no particular song in the set could outweigh another. Each track was given equal treatment and made special in its own way, with Middleton often sharing a silly anecdote or a story behind many of the tracks. The final highlight of the evening was “After All”, a sweetly solemn track that proved to be the perfect choice to close out the performance.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Tides is available now. The Melbourne show was the final stop on Middleton’s album tour. Keep up to date with any future live dates via his Facebook page HERE
The reviewer attended the Northcote Social Club gig on Friday October 26th