Acoustic & Intimate
by Steve Kilbey


Rating: 4 [out of 5]

It doesn't say so on the cover, but this is truly unplugged music, unplugged as it should be but seldom is, with nothing but a voice and an acoustic guitar to be heard. And as it happens, Steve Kilbey has more to gain than most musicians from this raw format. Kilbey has unquestionably written and recorded many great songs. But too often throughout his career in the Church and other bands and projects his talents have been obscured by the constraints of a band format, an over-reliance on guitars and production and an eccentric contrariness that has often prompted him to shoot himself in the foot.

Away from other musicians and the studio, and the pressure to deliver for a record label, Kilbey has managed to record his most open and honest album to date. Live before a small, intimate audience in Sydney's Bondi, the album is an overview of his career, including most of his best songs. Classic tracks like "Under The Milky Way" and "Almost With You" can be seen from new intriguing angles.

But better still, lesser known tracks like "Providence" and "My Little Problem" have gained new life in this format. In the Church, Kilbey's voice sometimes sounds a little stilted and lethargic, as if he'd rather be doing something else. But live and alone, his vocals have a new passion and vitality that brings virtually every song here to life. As an added bonus, he even includes a performance of the great track he penned for Stephen Cummings a few years ago, "September 13".

Even better, Kilbey erases his reputation as a recluse through his friendly comments to the audience on each song, revealing a sense of humour and modesty not always apparent in his long past. The singer even treats us to an explanation and performance of the first song he ever wrote.

As mentioned above, this is how unplugged albums should be: unpretentious, revealing and full of raw gems.

When Kilbey plays "Mistress" live you better leave everything you're doing and listen carefully. And what about "Limbo"? Whoa!!! The man redefines in this disc the old concept of troubadour.

I have been a fan of Steve Kilbey for close to 20 years now. My first concert was the Church, live at Navy Pier in Chicago. It was a spectacular show. I even was lucky enough to meet Steve before the show. He came to a door at the glass ballroom, and my friend and I were lucky enough to be standing there at the time. We had a conversation about his music, and about how much it meant to us. I have to say that this album (Acoustic and Intimate) is to me, just like that fateful meeting in Chicago. It feels like he is right there with you, waiting to answer any questions that you might have. The tracks are magnificent in their intimacy. Hearing a song like "Hotel Womb" stripped down to just Steve and his guitar gives new urgency to the song. It was always a beautiful song, but the way he plays it, and the tones in his voice, make you feel the lyrics that much deeper. "The mother of the storm is gonna roam the sky, searching for her child".

An excellent CD to purchase for anyone wanting an overview of Steve's solo material. The sound is excellent, turn it up full boar, close your eyes turn out the lights, wish you were there, and enjoy.