Tears and laughter for domesticated Fred Smith

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Fred Smith in his “Domestic” guise.

Music / “Domestic”. Fred Smith. At Kambri Cultural Centre, ANU, February 14. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

POPULAR music is the philosophy of today, and the songs and stories of Fred Smith fit that viewpoint perfectly, and his audience loves it.

Promoting the launch of his new album, “Domestic”, Fred Smith and band have a style that crosses between pop, country and folk music. This effervescent new record combines Fred’s musings on 21st century Australia with love songs for, as he says, “pasty-faced white middle-aged people”. 

He was accompanied by legendary players including Dave O’Neill (Eric Bogle Band etcetera) percussion, piano and Liz Frencham on double bass who opened the concert. 

Frencham, who has a delicious voice, performed three jazz/pop-styled pieces in her set. O’Neill on guitar came in on the second song titled “Dirt Coloured Glasses”. O’Neill’s smooth, clear jazz guitar added a touch of coolness. Frencham wound up her three-song set with an anti-love song. It swung.

Smith’s opening number with the full band, “Whenever We Make Art”, was accompanied by a selection of images of bands, musicians and popular figures on a big screen from the ’70s that I assume must have influenced him. Smith’s lyrics are satirical and pointed. His unassuming name matches his style of music and words to a tee. 

His music moves through styles but does not stray too far from pop/country/folk. 

His songs and stories are of a musical poet, a people’s poet, and he tells it like it is. Occasionally straying into political satire his words really hit home with the audience. 

A song titled “Musical Chairs”, which is about the revolving door of political leaders our country has had over the past 10 years, was spot on. This was accompanied by background images of our pollies in embarrassing and comical situations; they had everyone laughing. 

After the interval, the mood changed with the introduction of love and sad songs. There’s quite a subtleness and introspection to his softer songs. Even though his strong comical leanings always seem to cut through, some songs were poignant to the point of tear-inducing for audience members around me. His fan base is strong, too. Many in the audience sang along throughout the night. 

A song titled “Beautiful Girl”, about his daughter, proved to be a highlight. The heartfelt warmth he included in this song could easily be gleaned from his love and admiration for his young daughter. Smith’s wife, who was there, and her family featured in several songs. A touching tribute to his wife’s late parents had her crying in the audience.

His album, “Domestic”, was recorded and produced in Canberra. The large Canberran audience was full of enthusiasm and love for Smith’s laconic and honest music.

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