Glenn Cardier – Australia’as unsung master – review
Glenn Cardier and the Sideshow: Live at Lizotte’s
Glenn Cardier grew up in 1960’s Brisbane, Australia. This meant that he was out of the mainstream, away from the competitive drive for supremacy that dominates life in Sydney and Melbourne. It also gave time and space to develop an earthiness and individuality that still dominates his music and view of life. In the seventies Cardier was a quirky singer/songwriter whose whimsical worldview produced three original, and now highly sought after albums. A lengthy hiatus was broken in 2002, when Cardier produced the extraordinary “Rattle the Cage.”
Two further CDs, the dream infused “House of Mirrors” (2004) and the triumphant “Exiles From Eden” (2008) confirmed that one of Australia’s major songwriting talents had not only returned, but had moved his singing and guitar playing to previously undreamed of heights. The three noughties albums stand as a major collection of powerful, driving, growling roots music interspersed with some of the most compellingly delicate and fragile ballads ever committed to recording. The diversity of sound Cardier captures certainly militates against mainstream success in an age of corporatized target audiences, but is the very reason true music fans are devoted to his recordings.
In February 2009 Cardier, supported by his handpicked band, the Sideshow, decided to celebrate his “comeback” trilogy by recording a live show. The venue was Lizotte’s on the Central Coast of New South Wales, a venue loved by musicians for its ambience, the intimacy with the audience and funky vibe that seems to be embedded in the walls of the room. It was the prefect setting to capture the incredible breadth of experience and sound that Cardier encompasses.
The DVD places you in the room at Lizotte’s, sharing the closeness of such a wonderful room. It’s a crowded stage in such a tiny venue, but that simply adds to the intimacy of the show. The Sideshow, with Stuie French on guitar, Pete Clark on stand up bass, Phil Grove on accordion and keys, and the powerful whack of Dave Fester on drums are a sensitive complement to Cardier’s always impressive guitar playing.
The set list combines all the quirks, influences and eccentric qualities of Cardier’s worldview, and wraps them in a wonderful rockabilly sensibility that could’ve come direct from Sun Studios in 1955. It’s a show rich with light and shade, segueing effortlessly from the gruff blues of “Water Finds Its Own Level” to the shimmering, perfect pop sensibility “Could Out There.” This makes Cardier a promoter’s worse nightmare, but proves why breaking music into component demographics destroys what makes it so precious to those of us who truly love music as a means of genuine communication of emotions and ideas.
All facets of Cardier’s musical personality are on show. There’s the slightly out of kilter view you get from growing up in Brisbane captured so beautifully in the narrative of “Close Encounter (With a UFO)”, “Elvis at the Checkout”, “She’s the One For Me” and the never recorded “Pamela Anderson”. The joyous celebration of his life long love affair with rockabilly shines through on tracks like “House of Mirrors”, the powerful “Asylum Blues”, the swampy whomp of “Rust in the Tailfin” and the closer, “Shing-A-Ling”, that is guaranteed to ever any genuine roots music aficionado also seeking out the original version on 2002’s “Rattle the Cage.”
Interspersed between the driving beat and John Lee Hooker growls are some of the most delicate, hauntingly beautiful ballads you’ll ever hear. “Invisible Ink” is quite literally breathtaking. Whenever it’s performed live, there’s an audible intake of breath as the audience collectively catch their breath after sitting spellbound by a song whose quietness draws the listener deep into Cardier’s world. It’s an experienced replicated in the softness of “She Flew Away” and the lilting, Parisian sounding opener, “Sideshow Alley.”
The DVD also includes a wide ranging interview with one of Cardier’s long time supporters, the seminal music historian Glenn A Baker. It gives newcomers an opportunity to grasp the significance of Cardier’s contribution to Australian music in its entirety with some exclusive clips being lovingly restored. As the liner notes attest, “more Cardier than has been available over his entire career.”
That is certainly a good thing, and the DVD also includes a CD of the pristine live recording as well. The entire package serves as a fitting summary of an artist whose largely unheralded career has richness and integrity that converts casual listeners into true believers. There’s a power in Glenn Cardier’s music that transcends the limits of national or artistic boundaries. He is truly one of Australia’s great songwriting, and as this release shows, performing greats.
Ordering information from www.glenncardier.com