Clare Bowditch was nice and all with a very endearing stage presence, but for my mind, the night, nay the year, belonged to The Devastations.
I've never heard such crisp and clean dirty distorted guitar solos and was blown away by the sophistication of the song writing.
All the reviews you read draw comparisons to the mood and stylings of artists from Leonard Cohen to Serge Gainsbourg to Johnny Cash to latter day luminaries including Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Pulp (and on the vocals front, I'd probably throw in a smoothened version of Tex Perkins growl) - now the reviews may be right (though don't ask the band about this - though all good bands hate to be pigeonholed in this manner) but The Devastations are so much more again.
They harness an incredible balance of smokin' and sexy baritone vocals, bass, single sometimes finessed and otherwise screaming guitar, drums and classic piano keyboard with a particularly deft touch in the songwriting department.
Chatting to some of the band after (yeah, I'm so rock'n'roll :), they were saying that they'd toned things done a little for this show - what with the much more mellow Clare Bowditch sound to follow on - and I have to say I'd be pretty interested to check them out in full flight. Having said that though, both of their albums are finely polished works which give full priority to the beauty of the songs and just hint at the manic screechy distorted yet crisply clean guitar work (think the solo near the end of "I don't want to lose you tonight" on Coal) that kicks in when the generally easygoing songs really rev up live.
For me, I thought that the balance between keeping the melody (very strong melodys) and bringing the rock was spot on.
Gig of the year in my book.
(Must make special mention of the keyboard too - I can see that the piano sound is perhaps one of the things that draws the Bad Seeds comparisons as no-one else in rock uses the keyboards this effectively - just boldening the sound at the right moment with particularly well chosen chords and floating melodies.)
(And I know the drummer almost never gets a wrap in most write-ups - unless they suck of course - but the engine room was mighty and strong with the light touch at times asked by the tunes)
These guys still have a few more shows in Oz before they bugger off back to Europe, so do what you can to check them out. Now!.