Rich Batsford @ Higher Ground East – Art Base
3:00pm, Sat 16 Mar 2013
When skating through the Guide prior to the Fringe, something about the précis for Mindfulmess caught my eye; I think it was the use of the word “meditative”. And, spying a late-Fringe matinée timeslot, I started pondering whether it could help with the Great Fringe Wind-Down… the fact that Rich Batsford contacted me via Facebook to personally invite me to the show pretty much sealed the deal.
So after dashing across the humid city from Cor to make the 3pm start, I scuttled into a seat at the back of the narrow Art Base in Higher Ground; it’s really dark room, and I immediately suspect that the lack of light, coupled with anything close to meditative, may send me snoozing.
But when Rich Batsford comes out to perform his solo piano material, it soon becomes apparent that “meditative” wasn’t supposed to mean “slow”… more like thoughtful or introspective. Playing a mixture of originals and covers, instrumentals and sentiment-laden vocal tracks, Batsford’s piano – like his vocals – are clean and precise, and at times lack warmth.
But when Batsford hammers the lower keys, things get a little ragged and emphatic… and that’s a good thing. And if there’s one thing he absolutely nails, it’s the ends of his songs – and I don’t mean that in a snide way. I mean that he’ll include variations of the song’s melody, reworking it – speeding up, slowing down – before consistently coming to a great finish.
Whilst The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows was the most notable cover, it’s Batsford’s original instrumentals (such as Cello Song) that impress the most: they’re typically long, well constructed pieces. When Rich has to sing, it’s almost as if he’s afraid to let the song drag on too long – those tracks tend to be over before they’ve had the opportunity to begin.
But his lyrics tend to be very reflective – and he’s not adverse to baring his soul for all to see, and he doesn’t tend to use much in the way of metaphor… with his partner in the audience, you almost feel like you’re watching a couple make up after a fight. But there’s a charm to his raw honesty, and that – combined with his chilled choice of music – makes Mindfulmess a pleasant diversion.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 16, 2013