What: William Crighton – This is magic tour
Where: Garden of Unearthly Delights – The Spiegeltent, March 4
Duration: 60 minutes
Review by Jason Leigh
William Crighton last played Adelaide more than two years ago to a sold out audience standing huddled together in the modestly sized band room at the Grace Emily Hotel. Times have indeed changed and on this night, the first in a series of live dates stretched out to the end of May for the rescheduled This is magic tour, the Spiegeltent seems entirely fitting for a performance that lacks pretension with not a hint of the frivolity of other performers who have played here before and after. On stage, William displays a physical intensity that makes sitting in the front row an uneasy experience. He stares directly into your eyes and you have nowhere else to look as he is unaccompanied by his usual musical and literal family.
It would be somewhat accurate to describe William as an Australian folk singer but this is unfair as he is far more than just that. He is an intelligent and articulate performer with songs that are littered with iconography, geographical and cultural references not often found in modern songwriting, a throwback to arguably simpler times. Although his storytelling does encompass confronting content related to colonialism as demonstrated on Coolara and Fire In the Empire, that does not mean that there is a lack of current relevance as the general themes he explores are perennial. Coolara is an epic song in which he inhabits a lead character in first person as it builds to a climax of pain, suffering and destruction. It’s On is a cover of an obscure song by Australian folk singer Don Henderson taught to him by his friend Jack Thompson and afterwards William takes a moment to address the prevalence of toxic masculinity in our culture. Julieanne is a more honest description of his relationship with his wife than you would find most performers allowing themselves and preceding this song he announces a forthcoming addition to the family and jokes, “Hashtag lockdown baby”.
At moments throughout the set this venue is not a shelter but contains the storm and William is at the centre especially when switching from acoustic guitar to an aquamarine dobro that has seen better days to play out the latter half of his performance starting with Fire in the Empire. In his introduction to Jesus Blues a thought comes to mind that this setting could easily be mistaken for that of a preacher and his congregation and this is consolidated when he leads the audience in a chant of “I want my money back” to bring the song to a close.
The regular cover of The Band Played Waltzing Matilda is played before an encore in name only of two contrasting songs that are representative of the range of William’s performing style. The penultimate Your Country, is a squealing rock’n’roll blues that comes to an abrupt halt while the accepted request On My Way is bellowed a capella with the recurring themes of fire and burning bringing the set to a very satisfying close.