Howie Day @ The Standard - 30 March 2012 (published Sounds of Oz March 2012)

On Friday night I enjoyed one of the best nights of live music I have in some time at The Standard. American singer-songwriter Howie Day drew me in, but some exemplary supports made the night something truly special.

I fell in love at first note with Patrick James, a sweet young acoustic guitar-playing troubadour from Port Macquarie. He was a cutie, but his modest personality and superb lyrics really won me. Despite being a support act the crowd around me was so respectful that I could really take in the words he sang. Just when I thought his set couldn’t get any better he was joined by his banjo-playing pal. Together they created the perfect indie folk tunes to set the stage for the evening ahead.

I must admit, I was flagging after Patrick. Pub gigs always get so late for this middle-aged music lover! I whispered to my husband that I wished there wasn't another support act; I wanted to hear Howie and head on home! But there was Brendan Maclean, a magnificent musician who turned my fatigue around. He made a big impression with his colourful jacket and Dwayne Wayne style sunglasses, but as his first impassioned piano driven song unfolded it was clear this guy wasn't just about looks. His set flew by with quirky originals and cover versions of songs by Leonard Cohen and Lady Gaga. You're not going to find that combination very often folks! Whether on piano or his beloved ukulele Murphy Brown, Brendan wowed me.

And then there was Howie Day. He's still largely unknown in this country but I've been following his career for the past decade. In fact, my husband and I realised as we sat waiting for him to appear that we'd seen him first eight years ago in New York City. It was the first show we ever saw together, something I was thrilled to tell the man himself once his set wrapped up. But before I reverted to teenage fangirl it was time to soak up his brilliance. His set drew from his three albums and the brand new EP Ceasefire, something that pleased a long-time fan like me greatly. The simplicity of his lone acoustic guitar and plaintive vocals was matched perfectly by his tech wizardry. What that man does with looped recordings blows my mind each time I witness it. It's such a neat trick that he uses like a pro, making the right songs feel bigger and more lush. However in the more intimate tunes like "She Says" and "No Longer What You Require" he does away with the trickery and lets his guitar and voice speak for themselves. It's just magic.

I didn't leave The Standard until around midnight. By that time I'm usually long tucked up in bed. I was exhausted, but so thrilled to have seen such a brilliant set from one of my most beloved musicians along with two more from new favourites. It doesn't get any better than that!

(c) 2012 Lauren Katulka