Live Review: Jeremy Neale – Johnson Art Series Hotel, Brisbane (21.07.17)

“Hello everyone, grab a seat!” Jeremy Neale says from the bed of a hotel room. His set list is peeping out from the “What do you call this thing?”

The 20 odd guests call out…

“Throw!”
“Rug!”
“Blanket!”

“A throw?” he says, “Too fancy for me. One day I’d like to own a throw”.

This is a taste of the very intimate Immersion series that has been running out of the Johnson Hotel in Spring Hill – as part of the Queensland Music Festival. But this wasn’t where the show started. Our small cohort was lead throughout the hotel as a small tour – learning the history of the building, and the painter it’s named after, Michael Johnson.

Jeremy Neale is perfect for an event like this. Unassuming, and full of witty banter, there’s a certain type of confidence needed to perform face to face with a crowd. No stage lights to wipe away faces, no mass crowd blurring into one. It’s almost mano e mano every time you glance up from the neck of the guitar.

He’s also an excellent reader of the room – knowing to sprinkle in as many crowd pleasers as there are new tracks. Self-proclaimed lover of ‘cool riffs’, he offered a few new album tracks such as “Dancin’ and Romancin” which the room backed up was ‘definitely fun’.

He closed the evening on a high and a favourite from everyone.  Explaining this was based on a true story and is in his opinion some of his best work, he delivered “Ramona”. He was happy to divulge the lyrics aren’t that far from the truth at all. He was inspired by a failed relationship, and that weird place between “Are we?” or “Aren’t we?” getting back together. Taking her to the cinema and watching her text another man. The acoustic version carries just as much waste even without the guitar solos.

The warm hotel room and comfy beanbags were a perfect and intimate escape from the Brisbane winter chills several stories below us. QMF has taken the music out of a typical scene and placed it somewhere strange and immersive, without losing the weight of Neale’s work.