The Deer Johns are Growing Up
The Deer Johns @ The Big Slapple – Apollo Theatre
6:00pm, Sun 3 Mar 2013
After thoroughly enjoying The Deer Johns in both 2011 and 2012, Growing Up was a certain inclusion on The Shortlist; the only possible concern was that the focus of this year’s musical time-warp was the 70s, of which my musical knowledge was decidedly shakier.
The Deer Johns know that they’ve got a winning formula, and Growing Up doesn’t bother to mess with it too much. There’s still a cheesy narrative thread that ties their vaguely relevant selection of 70s pop/rock classics together, but it seems to have taken a bit more of a back-seat this time around; the trio appear to be much more relaxed (as a result, maybe?), and the music feels… I dunno, more relaxed and fun. There’s much more humour to be derived from their renditions of the tunes, rather than the narrative dialog – two obvious examples being the regular Black Betty flashes by the drummer, and the progressive Bohemian Rhapsody playthrough.
While previous Deer Johns shows have had me occasionally lambasting the arrangements of songs, I very much enjoyed the instrumentation of this setlist – but I’m left to wonder whether that’s my lack of deep knowledge of the songs? Sure, many of the tracks were singalong familiar… but even when I did had a stronger remembrance of the song, the interpretation often delighted: Elton John & Kiki Dee’s classic Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, rendered with Jesse Cotton’s accordion, was an absolute pearler.
And, far from being a collection of songs I didn’t recognise (as I had initially feared), the selection was fabulous: Hall & Oates made an appearance, ELO got a couple of berths (though Mr Blue Sky is so terribly overrated), and even the fabulous Cool for Cats got an airing. Besides the bold mis-step of attempting Another Brick In The Wall, the only real disappointment in the show – especially compared to last year‘s gargantuan effort – was the crowd; there was probably a healthy eighty-odd people in, but within the yawning spaces of the Apollo it felt… well, a little insulting, really.
A need to dash to my next show meant that I didn’t have time to chat to The Johns post-show; hopefully I managed to impart a hearty thankyou in the words that were flung their way as I scooted out the door. And look – you can watch this entire show online, if you were unable to get to the show yourself. But you know what? You really should give them some cash, or at least some attention, if you get the chance: The Deer Johns use a ropey narrative to deliver cheeky interpretations of quality songs with a wink and a smile, and that makes for an occasionally groan-worthy – but always enjoyable – show.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 3, 2013