Heath Cullen

The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide
April 19, 2013


We went out tonight. Hadn't been to a gig in ages. So we went out instead. Taking a modest risk, hoping to see something worth my time and trouble. Tonight it was pointed out to me - with considerable intensity - that we only realise how little the virtual world gives us when we see something so wonderful, grand and intelligent, and find yourself reacting so powerfully that... ah. Yes.

Hang on.

So, ho to the Wheatsheaf Hotel, a faux retro outback beer garden doodah in the middle of Adelaide's shabby chic west side. It's not bad actually, sitting at these '50s formica kitchen tables beneath a retro gas heater... and although we're indoors, we see stars. Two of them.

Now, everyone knows stars often have humble beginnings. The Beatles were at the Cavern, Nick Cave was at the Tiger Room, INXS were at a mining camp and  Richard Branson was a git. But you don't always expect to walk in and see the process in motion.

Kim Dellavadora

Kim Dellavedova

Tonight is, apparently, Kim's comeback, she hasn't played for several years. So she's a bit nervous, and she tells us she prepared for the gig by buying seven picks and managed to throw them into the bin by mistake. So, she figures 'go with it', it's fingers tonight - and her playing isn't Carlos Santana but doesn't need to be.

So while Kim seems quite ordinary, about as unlike a star as you can get, she most certainly is a star. All that's missing is the fame and the dosh. Her songs are simple, calm, accomplished and graceful. She plucks and strums lovely elegant chord progressions on a bloody huge Gibson. Rhythms and tunes flow with a methodical, magnetic simplicity. The careless assurance of her playing highlights simultaneous elements of vulnerability and strength; her sense of time transports us and she sings like an angel. Kim hypnotises us, almost remorselessly, makes us sit very still while we fall into her world. Most of the set is older, and she plays it with a delicate assurance. There's at least one new song tonight, Sweet Destruction, which makes me wonder what the rest of her new material is like. More, more please.

Kim's last CD was City Keepers, and as there doesn't seem to be a label I must assume she put it together herself. Looks better than most big record company jobs, to be honest.

She's a star. We should see more of her, and so should you.

Heath Cullen

Heath Cullen

Well, I saw this poster at some monstrous shopping complex I was escaping from and noticed that with his new album he'd worked with a few interesting characters in LA, ex-Canned Heat and Tom Waits and so on. Being a busy sod, I knew if I checked it out on the internet I wouldn't have the time and the lack of enfrazzlement to properly appreciate it. Also, the internet tends to bland stuff down into a big ol' info slushy where everything seems to be part of everything else.

So, when we peer at the stage, things look... possibly promising. There's four guitars to the left, including a weird midget 12-string thing (I'm a guitar expert, did I tell you?), a white thing by the same company, a gold gibson and an acoustic. The amps look ... old, and the double bass looks like it shares a room with a pissed-off cat. The man himself wears a suit which, well, dear God ...

Look, Heath is wearing a brown and orange paisley three-piece suit with a red spotted necker and a polka-dot shirt. And a brown belt and brown boots. All beneath warm orange lights.

Mind, if I'd seen that suit at the same time Mr Cullen did, we'd have been brawling over it.

Now, from the word go, Heath exudes charisma. It's natural, seeps off him like his songwriting and guitar playing - I mean, there's a lot of smarts going on here. 'Far too young to be this old'. See?

The man seems effortlessly accomplished. Then he says he's getting a cold, and later reveals that this is the band's first gig.

And they're so tight. How can you write a song called "Fullarton Bridge" and make it beautiful? This man can. He sings about promises and makes it sound unique, his stories are segments of a film you saw last week. He has a gloriously controlled voice and a restrained sense of mischief. His guitar is gloriously articulate and carefully structured, yet liquid, rich and flowing. He shows off just the once - in the last song, and even then he involves the band so much it's beautiful. How many damn good guitarists have the restraint and intelligence to do that?

Heath Cullen is a star.

His new CD is "The Still and the Steep", is available through Fuse distribution or his website.

Kim and Heath play measured, strong, smart music with tunes and lyrics you remember, both are deep and intense without appearing to be deep and intense. Surprisingly, beguilingly intimate. Both give performances of extraordinary intimacy, stretch time and squish it, take you some place else and you're surprised what time it is when they finish, you think it should be later and earlier at the same time. I can only think of one other performer who had this ability and I'm not going to name him because neither Kim nor Heath should really be compared to anyone. They both have a unique aura about them which defies description until you enter their worlds; for that reason film and tv producers should be sitting up and paying attention. This is where the new soundtracks are, folks.

Why we bother with internet experiences or computer games or the 45 new free telly channels is a mystery. I cannot begin to express the delighted thrill I had witnessing these two masterful singer songwriters tonight.



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