Dirty Three were recently called ‘one of the world’s greatest living bands’. It’s simply true. It was 1pm on a Sunday over the Dark Mofo weekend, the first of two gigs in one day for the band. I pondered, given their duties later on, whether the band would hold back, keep their powder dry, for the 7pm gig. They didn’t. Not one iota.

Playing their debut album, released 25 years ago, Dirty Three were in thunderous form. Warren Ellis, surely the greatest rock’n’roll violinist – nay, musician – in history, is a whirling dervish of a Rasputin-like figure, bending, arching, kicking out at anything in close range. As violent and expressive as his performance was, he punctuated the gig with gently self-deprecatory tales of dodgy speed, corrupting visiting overseas musicians with that speed, shopping with the late, great David McCombe from car boot sales and philosophising about how to cope when you find yourself in a hole. According to Ellis, you decorate and settle in. He was articulate, charming and witty throughout the gig, an alter ego from the demonic wizard in play.

The dynamics between the trio were electric. Mick Turner on guitars, solemn, still, seemingly observing the antics of the other two remotely but providing an impeccable foundation upon which the other two relied. Jim White on Drums, subtle and delicate one minute, wild and foamy the next, the perfect foil for Ellis.

Ellis was the absolute master of his violin: controlling feedback like it had an on/off switch, spinning out complex arpeggios, bended notes, riffs that brought tears to your eyes.

The band played the eponymously-titled album in full, but then went on to play some later pieces: they were on stage for a blistering two hours, adding songs to the repertoire seemingly spontaneously and with great joy. And great joy was the collective sense from the audience, streaming out into Hobart’s wintery cold sunshine, ebulliently warm within.

Set List:

  1. Indian Love
  2. Better Go Home
  3. Odd Couple
  4. Kim’s Dirt
  5. Everything’s Fucked
  6. The Last Night
  7. Dirty Equation
  8. 1000 Miles
  9. Hope
  10. I Remember a Time When Once You Used to Love Me
  11. Sue’s Last Ride

Photos: Arun Kendall


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