On Wednesday night I finally managed to catch Joe Pug live, on his first Australian Tour. My love for Joe is no secret… after all, I’ve written about the dude about six times (yes, every one of those words is a link to a different post), the first time being over two years ago. So, suffice to say, I’ve been hanging to see him live for quite a while. So when I heard he was going to be playing the Troubadour in Brisbane, well… there was just no question, really.
Joe is one of the few artists I’ve compared to Dylan on this blog. And I don’t make that comparison lightly. But take a bit of Dylan, add in a dash of Woody Guthrie and Prine, maybe some Josh Ritter, and package it in this kid that just effortlessly exudes cool swagger.. and you have Joe Pug. The guy is everything I ever wanted to be, back when I was playing myself.
So Joe had a lot to live up to. And he didn’t have a whole lot to work with; the numbers in the Troubadour weren’t huge, and the atmosphere was pretty subdued. (On that note, major props need to go to Chris Altmann, who opened for Joe. He pulled off one crazy energetic set, despite playing to about 10 people. At one point, he pulled out a Vandas song, that absolutely killed it. You can watch it on youtube here) So yeah… it was a tough crowd.
But you know, I really shouldn’t have been concerned. Because Joe came out blazing, opening with Nation of Heat. And man, did he turn it on.
Joe Pug, “Nation of Heat”, live at the Troubadour in Brisbane
From that moment, more people started drifting in off the street. And you just knew that Joe was going to turn it on for the – admittedly still smaller than it should have been – crowd.
The beginning of the set was a bit of a whirlwind… Joe just took it right to The Troubadour, that voice of his – you know the one, the one that sounds like it shouldn’t be coming from someone so young… I mean, surely this is the voice of someone coated in warm whiskey and wistful years – just washing over his audience.
I think things really turned in the crowd when Joe performed “I Do My Father’s Drugs”. People who had been talking amongst themselves over a beer put down their drinks and turned towards the stage. You can actually hear the chatter die down in the below clip. And it was just awesome to see.
Joe Pug, “I Do My Father’s Drugs”, live at the Troubadour in Brisbane.
By far though, my highlight of the night was when Joe played “Unsophisticated Heart”. It’s probably my favourite tune of his, and this particular rendition was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. And really, while Joe was playing this, you could have heard a pin drop.
Now i see things like a soldier
yet i’m jealous of the dark
if my eyes have only gotten older
I still have an unsophisticated heart
Joe Pug, “Unsophisticated Heart”, live at the Troubadour in Brisbane
After a really touching performance of “Disguised as Someone Else”, Joe really settled into it. His interaction with the crowd was really good, and the one thing that you might not pick up from Joe’s tunes is that he is one seriously funny dude. There was a nice little chat leading up to “How Good You Are” that had the crowd cracking up… and then the harp on the tune – as always – just tore me up inside.
Joe Pug, “How Good You Are”, live at the Troubadour in Brisbane
“Speak plainly, Diana”, was another highlight of the night for me. The amount of times I’ve listened to live versions of this tune is ridiculous, and each time I have, I’ve been super, super jealous of the crowd that get to sing along with the lines “I don’t mind riding around…“.
This time, I could add my own voice to the chorus…
Joe Pug, “Speak plainly, Diana”, live at the Troubadour in Brisbane
Of course, what would a Joe Pug set be without “Hymn #101”? When Joe sang the lines, “I’ve come to test the timber of my heart. Oh I’ve come to test the timber of my heart“, I literally could not hide the smile on my face. The lines were some of the first lyrics I heard of his, and a large part of the reason I actively looked for more of his stuff, two years back. It was… well, for lack of a better word… perfect.
Joe Pug, “Hymn #101”, live at the Troubadour in Brisbane
Following the gig, I spent my last $20 on Joe’s “Messenger” release. It didn’t matter that I had the tunes electronically. I wanted to show my appreciation for the show he put on that night. And as Joe shook my hand and said, “Hey, I’m Joe”… I was glad I did.
In all the past times I’ve written about Joe, I’ve had one consistent message: help us spread the word. If there is one artist I’ve wanted to help with this blog, it’s Joe. The guy is everything I feel that music could and should be.
So I’m going to ask again: if you like what you’ve heard, then spread the word about Joe. You can visit his website here, and even ask for free CDs if you like. Joe just wants his music heard. And I really believe it should be.
I’ve embedded both of his releases below. Listen. Love. Support.