Heading to The Grace Emily on a chilly Thursday night to see Tim Hart of Sydney’s Boy & Bear, there were two words I definitely didn’t expect to hear that evening (or ever, really): “testy” and “pop”. Yes, “testy pop”. Uttered at least twice by the Sydney indie-folk singer, songwriter, guitarist and, well… amateur comedian. He was actually referring to that high, cracked note teenage boys tend to hit during puberty. In short, Tim was losing his voice. Never the best news to hear at the beginning of a gig, but luckily the main thing Mr Hart was cracking that night was a lot of jokes between acoustic tunes and sips of hot water in an AC/DC mug.
Melbourne support act Neda, accompanied by her boyfriend on guitar, kicked things off slowly with her angelic voice and sweet folk tunes. She was followed by Stu Larson and his contrastingly booming voice and acoustic guitar. Then appeared the red-headed mischief himself. Who would’ve guessed someone who sings such melancholy lyrics like Tim Hart would be so bloody funny. Considering the drummer is used to sitting down the back, he was unbelievably confident and naturally charismatic standing alone on stage with his acoustic guitar and occasionally a harmonica too. He’s the kind of laid-back guy everyone wants to be friends with. As a person, he seemed in stark contrast to his beautifully sad music. The singer even admitted, tongue-in-cheek, that his friends called him after hearing his moody album to check if he was ‘alright’. On the other hand, it was easy to see where his honest lyrics and relaxed, unpretentious style originated.
With a log-fire burning, beer on-tap and the usual cosy atmosphere of The Grace Emily’s surroundings, there was no better setting for Hart’s first solo gig in Adelaide. He played all of his songs from the self-titled album including one of my favourites, “Stride by Stride” sung as a duet with good friend Stu on harmonica. “He’s Alright”, a song written one cold night in Brooklyn, was another highlight. In fact, the singer took the time to explain the origins of a few of his tunes before playing them, helping the audience understand and really connect with the lyrics. Speaking of the audience, the intimate venue was filled with a variety of people. It seems Hart’s music is the kind that appeals to 18-year-old indie kids and 65-year-old grannies, alike; one elderly lady stood mesmerized, front and centre, for the entire gig.
Another highlight of the night was “The Old Gate” which is usually mistaken for a song about lost love. In fact, it was written about an old (guy) friend who Tim hadn’t seen in a long time. Most of his songs were revealed as actually not being about women. A refreshing change from the old broken-hearted, I-miss-and/or-hate-my-ex-girlfriend thing.
Considering his disappearing voice, Hart managed to sing incredibly throughout all of his songs, bar one. “Architects”, one of his most up-beat and catchy tunes, was definitely a struggle as the notes went higher and the beat was faster. He had to stop half-way through saying “this one might not work” before the crowd clapped and cheered him on with shouts of “you can do it Tim!”. He pushed through it in the end.
Other than that moment and a bit of extra huskiness throughout, Tim’s voice was just as deep, strong and soulful as it is on record. His cheeky personality and banter were just the icing on the cake of a small but successful debut gig. A night of lots of laughter, a little woe, and thankfully not much popping.