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Jon Cleary and The Absolute Monster Gentlemen
Bird’s Basement. November 14, 2017
Report: Greg Phillips. Photos: Jason Rosewarne

Everyone needs to see Jon Cleary and The Absolute Monster Gentlemen perform at least once in their life. If their brand of New Orleans funk don’t get you then the pure emotion and joy of this soulful music will.

Playing to a packed house at the first gig of a 3 night stand at Melbourne’s Bird’s Basement last night, The Absolute Monster Gentlemen took to the stage with nothing but a good time in mind. Cleary, who usually has to suffice with a digital piano on the road, took full advantage of Bird’s Basement gorgeous sounding Yamaha grand and immediately showcased his dexterous piano skills. Material was mostly drawn from Cleary’s current album Go Go Juice with tracks like Beg Steal and Borrow, 9-5 and Boneyard creating a party vibe. However it was the slow burning Frenchmen Street Blues (utilised on the TV show Treme to great effect), displaying Cleary’s deft sense of timing and space which tugged at the heart strings and provided an early evening highlight.

For the night’s set, Cleary looked back and to the future with a taste of his upcoming new album, as well as songs from the past. Cheatin On You, written for and recorded by Taj Mahal was a crowd fave as was Agent 00 Funk from Cleary’s 2004 album Pin Your Spin. The Absolute Monster Gentlemen were smooth as silk in their delivery, playing complex rhythms with ease and adding their own inventive musical ingredients to the rich musical feast. Stop for a moment and concentrate on each member as they weave their magic. AJ Hall on drums adds intricate textures and quirky beats. Cornell Williams’ choice of bass notes is sublime and Nigel Hall’s funky synth notions and warm Hammond sounds, combine to produce music of the finest calibre. They all sing like Mutha Fathas too. Pump It Up from Go Go Juice gets the audience to their feet as the band by now has kicked into an unlockable groove. The Grammy-winning Cleary and band love us and leave us, inviting us to join him at a gig in New Orleans anytime we’re in the neighbourhood. Jon Cleary and The Absolute Monster Gentlemen perform at Bird’s Basement again tonight and tomorrow night before moving on to Brisbane and the Mullum Music Festival.

Cornell Williams
Nigel Hall


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