North Sydney Leagues Club, NSW
9 February 2013
The McClymonts’ new tour, Acoustic Harmony, may have been borne out of necessity – it seems to be Brooke McClymont’s version of maternity leave (she gave birth to daughter Tiggy at the end of November 2012) – but, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of this tour, the McClymonts have found a way to not only please long-time fans (and I am one) but also present the perfect introduction to their music for those who are unwilling to embrace a loud, full-band show.
Promptly at 8 p.m. the three sisters walk onto the stage and take their seats. Those who haven’t arrived on time – no doubt thinking there would be a support act – will miss out on what becomes the first of two sets.
The McClymonts’ a cappella start – a cover of Neil Young’s ‘After the Gold Rush’ – is enough to raise the hairs on the back of anyone’s neck; those amazing harmonies come from a mysterious place (as all such voices do) and reach out into the room, grabbing the attention of every person there.
There will be three more covers as the night goes on, each with a purpose for being there, but most of the show is devoted to a chronological progression through the band’s EP and three albums. This is a good way to structure an acoustic show – the show then tells us a story about the band (and they tell stories about themselves on the way, giving us some background on albums and songs). It is also brave to structure it this way, because it would have been obvious if the earlier songs had not been able to stand up to the sort of exposure that acoustic versions bring. The McClymonts were obviously – and rightfully – confident about that earlier material; as a fan who regularly listens to that first five-song EP, I was also confident that those songs would be just fine.
I don’t want to give away the set list, so all I’ll say is that there were some obvious choices – obvious because the recorded versions were already good showcases for the sisters’ harmonies – such as ‘Shotgun’ (from first album Chaos and Bright Lights) and ‘Where You Are’ (from latest album Two Worlds Collide). There were some other songs that didn’t seem so obvious, because the recorded versions are such full-band affairs, and they easily made the transition to the acoustic sound. And there were a couple of songs that I probably would have swapped for others, but they were clearly chosen because they were the singles, and a band can’t be faulted for playing the songs that they expect most people to know.
The tour has been designed to put the vocal harmonies at the forefront, and it does this to the extent that it wouldn’t matter what lyrics the McClymonts are singing – their voices really are everything. Listening to them sing recalls the term bhakti – bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion, typically expressed through singing and dancing. To experience bhakti is to experience the ecstatic and divine. Whatever one thinks of the McClymonts’ songs, to hear them sing is to experience bhakti. The last time a group of Australian voices belonged together so perfectly it was the Bee Gees (who were, interestingly, also siblings).
If you are a fan of the band – even a take-em-or-leave-em fan – this show is worth seeing because it is simply great entertainment. If you think you may want to be a fan of the band, this show is the ideal way to explore their music. Plus they are an all-ages band in the truest sense of the word: not because their music wouldn’t offend anyone, but because they have worked out how to entertain all types of people.
While watching the show I sincerely hoped that should the McClymonts ever release a ‘greatest hits’ album, they choose to make it acoustic. Or that someone at their mixing desk is recording the show each night with a view to releasing a live album. It’s rare for any musical act to offer a different version of their music, and for it to work so well. The Acoustic Harmony tour is yet more proof that the McClymonts are unique, and always shall be.
For tour dates, visit the McClymonts online at www.themcclymonts.net.