Damien Rice with pedestrian at the El Mocambo, September 11. Tickets: $20. Attendance: 150. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Drawing a paycheque as Alanis Morissette's guitar foil hasn't taught Joel Shearer much about putting on a captivating show. The members of his aptly named band, Pedestrian , dutifully followed the manly, mulleted axeman through two dull ballads before it occurred to anyone gabbing away at the El Mocambo that there was someone doing a half-assed job of trying to start a solo career onstage.
You'd think Shearer could've at least tried to use some of his past experience to his advantage, if only to grab people's attention, like "Hello, everyone, my former job was trying to prevent Alanis from sucking!" Nope. Instead, he just kept on moaning about his hard life in Hollywood. Uh- huh.
It was only after Irish charmer Damien Rice appeared that the non-drinking majority sitting cross-legged at the foot of the stage finally got up off their fanny packs.
Giggly collegiate types who couldn't contain themselves when Rice stepped forward to tune his guitar in the spotlight started sighing, "Ooh, look at his eyes - they're so soulful." The more vocal fans began blurting stuff like "I love you, Damien!" and "I'm Irish, too!" which he managed to ignore.
Evidently, there's loads of appeal in a skinnier, less swarthy Colin Farrell who can sensitively emote non-threatening John Mayer-style love songs with an Irish accent. The fact that women outnumbered men at the nearly sold-out show and were singing along to songs from his debut O (Vector/Warner) disc - which isn't even out domestically - bodes well for Rice's sales and pin-up potential.
The exceptionally well-paced performance made it clear that the young Rice is a skilled showman. Giving over the stage to cellist Vyvienne Long for what appeared to be an impromptu run at Purple Haze was a shrewd move and worked perfectly as a mid-set distraction.
The way Rice held notes for dramatic effect and broke into a falsetto whenever possible betrayed a serious debt to Jeff Buckley. However, his mediocre tunes, laced with hokey lyrical turns, suggest the "new Leonard Cohen" hype is a tad premature. The lad is definitely on his way, though.