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Image for Jon Auer @ The Vanguard, Sydney (21/02/07)

Jon Auer @ The Vanguard,Sydney (21/02/07)

It has been a while since the Posies’ co-leader, Jon Auer, graced Australian shores. The Seattle-based singer-songwriter is showcasing his debut solo album, Songs from the Year of Our Demise. Lauded by critics as one of the ‘must have albums of 2006’, Auer’s brand of acoustic power-pop is emotive.

Wearing jeans, a black suit jacket and a red-striped tie, Auer opens with the demure Cemetery Song. Over the rhythmic backing of his black acoustic guitar, Auer sings, ‘There’s no wondering where you are now/you’re so far now that you can’t get any farther away’. His fluid, melancholic voice echoes throughout the Vanguard. The crowd watches on in silence.

Explaining how Songs from the Year of Our Demise, which took six-years to record, is “Full of sad, melancholy songs about people I used to be in relationships with and people I used to be married to,” the set is interspersed with humour and anecdotes. Auer dedicates the second song, Bottom of the Bottle, to a former friend, who ‘can drink enough to kill a Komodo dragon!’ With its alcoholism-fueled theme, he cites You Am I’s, How Much is Enough? as inspiration. Its simple but direct lyrics are matched by a resonating, chorus-hook. ‘So you drink it all for the two of us/’cause we’ve gotta know if the bottom of your bottle’s really there/...Please come back for another look/you’re a pretty one’.

Taking out a big-bodied, F-hole electric guitar, Auer stops to share the story behind the poignant Josephine.

“Josephine was the mother of my father, who gave him away for adoption. My dad was adopted by much older people. When they died, my dad found this piece of paper with the name, ‘Josephine’, on it. He knew it was his mother. He went on this journey, looking for her. But he found out she’d been dead for fifteen years. But there was this whole, other side of the family in Ohio that we hadn’t met.”

He flaunts the song’s mood. Its strong imagery is crafted around choppy, guitar punctuation and free-flowing fillers. Auer is convincing. Josephine is undoubtedly a highlight.

Requesting a drummer’s assistance for, You Used to Drive Me Around, an audience member volunteers. Instructing him to keep time on a guitar case, Auer’s acoustic rhythm is complemented by the dull, percussive backbeat. Six Feet Under – the song that nearly became the theme song to the TV drama of the same name, follows.

Auer delves into the Posies’ back catalogue. He launches into Dream All Day, the kinetic, power-pop single; taken from the band’s 1993 release, Frosting on the Beater. His solo rendition is solid. Midway, Auer jokingly breaks into the similarly sounding Bob Dylan classic, All Along the Watchtower, followed by the Mamas and the Papas, California Dreamin’. It gets a laugh from the crowd, who are responsive to the Posies’ flashback.

Finishing with Big Star’s ballad, Thirteen and the Posies’, Coming Right Along, a solo Auer gives the music a different, yet compelling feel.

Songs from the Year of Our Demise is a notable record. Auer’s stripped-back acoustic performance at the Vanguard proves that he is an exceptional but often-overlooked songwriter. Solo, he is as arguably as good as the Posies. One thing is certain – you can not truly appreciate Auer’s music until you see him live.

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