Cosmo Jarvis @ The Corner Hotel, 3rd Of January

Cosmo Jarvis

Last Thursday night the one and only Cosmo Jarvis played a very entertaining set to an enthusiastic Corner Hotel crowd. It had been just a few months since the UK musician last toured Australia, only this time he brought a full band down with him, which added a lot of texture and power to his live show. This gig was a whole different beast to his earlier acoustic set at the comparatively tiny Pure Pop Records Courtyard, yet it was still full of the typical and exuberant Cosmo Jarvis flourishes and trademarks, and made for a night of fantastic music.

Often the first words spoken by a musician when they appear in front of the audience can set the tone for the rest of the gig. Luckily this was not the case with Cosmo Jarvis, as his welcome to the crowd was “My throat’s fucked, but it should be alright”. Not the best start to a set by any stretch of the imagination, but to be honest I don’t think I would have even noticed if he hadn’t said anything: his voice has a slightly gravely texture anyway, and he managed to hit all the right notes with no problem.

And besides, an opening double of Sure As Hell Not Jesus and Love This goes a long way to dispelling any doubts about a gig. They’re both great songs, in particular the latter, and the band performed them flawlessly, creating a fantastic atmosphere right from the off. There’s something very slick about Cosmo’s more recent music, and Love This is a perfect example of how it’s generally more focused than his earlier stuff but yet still very unique and effortlessly poignant. You can’t help but love the simple elegance of the lyrics: “If I believe in heaven I deny myself a death, dying keeps me conscious of the way I waste my breath”.

Unfortunately technical problems began to plague the set fairly early on, resulting in constant changes of guitar and fiddling with amps. Cosmo also kept banter to a slightly surprising minimum, perhaps in order to preserve his throat for the more important duty of actually singing. So it was that the set raced on in a fairly breakneck manner, with the band fitting an impressive number of songs into their hour-and-a-half main set (not bad at all for a Thursday night).

Highlights included She Doesn’t Mind, which got the whole crowd moving with that infectious swinging chorus, She’s Got You, which Cosmo played to spectacular effect despite reservations about it pushing his voice a bit too much, and Sunshine, one of his heaviest songs which was impressively powerful and dominating with his band behind him. The one constant throughout every song was a real sense of fun and energy, with each track noticeably different from the last to the point where there was more variation throughout the set than you’d say at virtually any other gig.

My only real criticism of the set is that it seemed to drag a little towards the end when Cosmos opted to play a string of new songs from an upcoming record. They certainly weren’t bad songs, but having three unknown songs in a row is a pretty effective way to dull the crowd’s enthusiasm slightly, so it might have been preferable to spread them throughout the set a bit more. I was still happy however, because one of the new songs in question was Look At The Sky, probably my favourite Cosmo song since I heard him play it live acoustically last year. I’m not entirely convinced of the band version of the track, but it’s impossible not to love a song with the lyrics: “I’m gonna describe how a sunset made me cry, yeah right. And I’m gonna throw you a shitload of adjectives you can arrange, into magnificent explanations of why you and your associations are really not so strange”.

There can be little doubt that many people in the crowd were waiting for one particular song, and sure enough Cosmo and co. finished their main set with a little number called Gay Pirates. You’d think it would be almost impossible for the song to live up to the implicit anticipation from the audience, but it truly did. As wanky as it sounds, it was less a song and more an experience. It was euphoric; one of those great moments where you shout along to every word of a song but yet don’t hear your own voice once. It was infinitely better than the acoustic version (although that was not without its own charm), with those drum beats really driving the song onwards and working the crowd up into something of a frenzy. Cosmo opted to play the extended version of the songs, with added mandolin, and the interlude worked perfectly before the band launched into one final, glorious chorus.

It was a song that was basically impossible to follow, which was why it was slightly surprising when the band appeared back on stage after a brief break for an encore. They had already played for much more than the allocated one-hour-long set, but seemed determined to give their fans value for money. The encore was enjoyable but definitely a bit of a step down from the main set. Mel’s Song had been heavily requested by Cosmo’s more hardcore fans throughout the night however, so it was good for them that the song made an appearance in the encore, even if it’s certainly not one of my favourite Cosmo Jarvis songs. And that was it for the night.

It had been an exceptional gig, and one that felt quite special and unique. Cosmo’s endearing and effortless charm is one of the hallmarks of his live set and, sore throat or nor sore throat, everything that he did or said seemed to turn to gold. In many ways the set was a bit of a welcome departure from your typical gig: there were huge variations between songs in terms of musical style, as well as a refreshingly honest frontman who began his set by saying that his throat was fucked but yet finished it by singing demanding and energetic songs flawlessly.

It’s hard to think of many better ways to bring in a new year than this.

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