Review: Nick Drake Tribute, The Red Rattler, Sydney

Nick Drake

Nick Drake Tribute
Elana Stone, Brian Campeau, Leroy Lee, Katie Wighton, Brendan Maclean, Jack Carty, Dave Calandra, Matt Tonks, Andy Golledge, James Edgar Francis, Andy Gordon, Ben Daley, James Daley
28th June 2012, Red Rattler

It’s sometimes hard to comprehend just how big an impact Nick Drake has had on modern folk music. During the height of his career in the late 60s/early 70s through to his death in 1974 Drake was a relative unknown and his three albums, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon, failed to sell on initial release despite his obvious talent as a songwriter and the profile of the musicians and producers he worked with. It wasn’t until the early 80s when Island Records reissued the three albums in a boxset that audiences started waking up to the music Drake had made. Now it’s impossible to listen to modern folk music without hearing the hallmarks of Nick Drake’s sound – the inspired fingerpicking, his unique way of crafting a melody, those amazing lyrics.

When Leroy Lee first floated the idea of a Nick Drake concert in Sydney I must admit I was both skeptical and excited. Excited because I’m a massive fan of Nick Drake’s music and I know Leroy Lee and his mates would do the man justice. Skeptical because I wasn’t sure just how much recognition of Nick Drake’s music there was outside of the musical community and surely those who are fans had already been sated by last November’s Way to Blue concerts.

I needn’t have worried. By the time I turned up at the Red Rattler the place was absolutely packed with one of the most attentive audiences I have ever seen.

While Way to Blue was probably a more polished tribute to Nick Drake (and let’s face it – being at the Sydney Opera House and the Melbourne Recital Centre it probably had to be), the concert at the Red Rattler last week had a really homly, community feel. Here were a group of musicians who are genuine friends who were having a ball jamming together and celebrating this wonderful music.

Nick Drake’s three albums were amply represented throughout the night with most of the players staying true to his orignal compositions and arrangements. Highlights for me included Leroy Lee’s cover of “Cello Song” complete with hummed cello part (although for some reason I kept hearing Al Pacino’s voice in my head during the song), the sets from both Jack Carty and Dave Calandra who sang as if the songs had been written for them and Elana Stone, Brian Campeau and Katie Wighton reinterpretation of Nick Drake through the Casio keyboard’s drum tracks.

Which I guess was my one main gripe fo the night. There were a lot of solo guitarist/singers and, while this may have been exactly what Nick Drake was, I felt like there wasn’t enough reinterpretation. I would have loved to have seen a more diverse range of instrumentation on stage and some different takes on Nick Drake songs. Even Leroy Lee, who I know best as a fine banjo player, pretty much stuck to the guitar for most of the night.

But this gripe is a minor and the night in general was a roaring success. Getting the entire cast on stage for “River Man” at the end of the night was a stroke of genius and the perfect way to wrap up a wonderful concert. I hope there was more than a few people in the audience that had never heard Nick Drake’s music before and are now new fans.

All we have to do now is ask – what’s next Leroy Lee?


  1. July 26, 2012 at 11:13

    […] has he played with the likes of Folk Uke throughout the US, not only does he organise nights like the awesome Nick Drake tribute concert last month, but he also produces some pretty special solo folk […]

  2. September 24, 2012 at 09:05

    […] At the end of June Leroy Lee brought together a bunch of his mates for a tribute to the late, great Nick Drake at The Red Rattler in Sydney. If you haven’t ready it yet you should check out our review of the night right here. […]

  3. April 30, 2013 at 11:28

    […] the success of last year’s local Sydney Nick Drake tribute concert organiser and Timber and Steel favourite Leroy Lee is repeating the exercise with a second show […]

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