Melbourne singer Wendy Rule played her last hometown gig last night before setting off for another northern hemisphere sojourn. She was backed by her usual band of William on percussion, Rachel on cello and husband Tim on guitar and Indian flute, though a guitar hassle meant Tim was sidelined from time to time.
The 303 Club at Northcote was bunkerish, hot and intimate, with carpet on the sloping floor for the sitters and sofas around the walls that sported eclectic paintings that tagged this an alternative, innocuous venue.
The sound was superb, controlled by Siiri Metsar who has produced previous albums for Rule and will be producing her next one, due to be cut mid-year. With just three new songs under her belt, Rule admitted she had her work before her, but expected her forthcoming trip to North America — including a week at the desert retreat that has already proven a creative space for her — to help fill the gap.
Amid standards such as ‘Artemis’ and an impromptu ‘Hecate’ — the guitar refused to downscale for ‘Creator Destroyer’ — and ‘Deity’, Rule unveiled her three new tunes, at least one of them for the first time.
‘Home’ carried a longing to putting down roots somewhere uncrowded; ‘After the Storm’ (I hope I remember this rightly) was a tour de force of swell and crash, mirroring the lightning storm and nature-scented morning after that inspired it; and ‘Black Snake’ was a ripping, pagan ode dedicated to the serpent leading not to expulsion but self-discovery and actualisation.
Other songs on the night, spread across two sets and broken by anecdotes and personable chatter as stage fans were turned on and instruments misbehaved, included the infectious percussion of ‘Wolf Sky’, the gorgeous harmonies of ‘Horses’ and a capella ‘My Heart is like an Open Flower’, as well as several from her most recent album, Guided by Venus.
This was a wonderful gig to start the year with, and one that offers the promise of a winning album to come if that desert country continues to weave its magic.