(This review originally appeared over at www.spectrumculture.com)
There are few performers making music right now who are more underrated than Tim Rogers. The Australian singer-songwriter has been putting out great records as a solo artist and as front-man for You Am I for over two decades now, yet he’s barely achieved any recognition here in America. Heck, some of his recent albums weren’t even released here. Perhaps he’s just destined to play the role of the cult underdog (much like the Davies, Chilton and Westerberg bloodline of artists he seems to have descended from), and that’s the way it’s gonna be, yet it bothers me that someone whose songs cover such a wide range of human emotion – celebration, introspection, humor – executed with great showmanship, can be so marginalized while hundreds of lesser talents garner all the accolades.
These thoughts weighed heavily on my mind as I stood and watched Tim Rogers play an hour-long set of acoustic songs in front of about 50-60 people in New York’s cozy Mercury Lounge at 8pm on a Tuesday night. Not that he seemed bothered in the slightest by any of this. Decked out in a schmaltzy aqua tuxedo jacket, sipping at a full glass of what appeared to be whiskey, a permanently scruffy-looking Rogers made the most of the intimate surroundings and turned in a stunning performance that was at times confessional, self-deprecating, moving, and even hilarious.
For him the show was a chance to visit with his 11-year-old daughter who lives in New York, which is usually not the kind of thing a performer would admit to a paying audience. But Tim isn’t the kind of performer who masks his emotions. He isn’t afraid to be honest with the audience or to spontaneously interrupt his own songs with comments, jokes, asides, or stories if something good occurs to him at that moment. Clearly his relationship with his daughter was on his mind during the show as he opened with a song called “Part-time Dads,” played a song inspired by her called “Dinosaurs,” and told a few short stories about her and her mother (who was in attendance) throughout the show. But the show wasn’t just some kind of self-help support group cry-fest for troubled dads. Rogers had us laughing hysterically at a riotous song about his teenage fascination with Gene Simmons, and gave a pretty funny account of the unglamorous side of life in a moderately successful band in “Hi, We’re The Support Band” from his highly recommended album What Rhymes with Cars and Girls. He also played a version of another favorite from that album, a breakup in song-form called “You Just Don’t Do It For Me Friend,” but with the raucous country barroom ambience of the recorded version replaced with a simple rockabilly guitar strum.
The evening ended all too soon with him dusting off You Am I’s classic heart-breaker “Heavy Heart” (from #4 Record), adding a snippet of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” at the very end to send us off into that warm New York night with satisfied smiles on our faces and booze in our livers.