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| 23 March 2024 | Reply

Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Luke Baker

I reckon the teenaged Johnny Diesel would approve that his adult self – known professionally as Diesel but born Mark Lizotte – launched into his new solo show on such a grandly ornate stage playing a standup double bass. Although the acoustic accompaniment is sparse – stark, even – his voice has aged well, like a fine port resting on charred oak barrels and now showing not only the raw soulful rock of his youthful days in Perth bands Innocent Bystanders, The Kind and Close Action, but also a bluesy complexity full of syrup-like nuance.

The opening set for tonight’s tour de force was mostly taken from the blues record he made during Melbourne’s first lockdown – Alone With Blues. There’s the great Lost & Lookin’, and Since I Fell For You – a song he recalls hearing many times from his Dad Hank’s record collection, though it’s Jimmy Witherspoon’s version he loves the most. Leadbelly’s arrangement of Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, his voice every bit the primal howl of the big man himself, or Kurt Cobain, who famously covered the track in Nirvana’s Unplugged set.

Diesel’s fascinating blues guitar and honeyed vocals are deep and complex, enough to fill many of the spaces where other instruments would normally go. Summertime is again accompanied only by a sparse double bass and again is hypnotically mesmerising. Next up are the big guns: Willie Dixon’s Spoonful – sung in a Howlin’ Wolf-like gravel-drenched growl – and Muddy Waters’ Hoochie Coochie Man – the first blues song, he says, he heard (aged about five) and “needed to know more about,” before Work Song’s double bass and clapped rhythm leads us into intermission.

If any fans of his pop chart hits were getting antsy by Diesel’s virtuoso deep and dark blues dive, they kept it to themselves, but the more familiar numbers in the second half definitely received a warmer and louder welcome as the night went on.

Forever, from new LP Bootleg Melancholy, opens the set, before a harmonica and acoustic twelve string guitar version of favourites Soul Revival and Masterplan, bringing the gorgeous melody of the latter to the fore. All Come Together – written to the hum of batteries while waiting for an electric car to charge – is next, then a compelling extended flamenco-styled intro to new album highlight Fifteen Feet Of Snow.

I Don’t Need Love and Come To Me are treated like long lost friends, even in these new arrangements, and Tip Of My Tongue goes down a treat, rising to a crescendo to conclude the main show.

Like a single bloke with a milk crate, there’s very little Diesel can’t do with a guitar, whether he’s playing it or using it as a percussive instrument in lieu of a stompbox, and his playing tonight is nothing short of fantastic.

Written circa 1930, The Flamingos’ I Only Have Eyes For you is a sweet start to the encore, before Diesel gives a shout out to Mark Lizotte – himself – for the opening set. “I got you – I got you” he chuckles, before an ever-more-frenzied Cryin’ Shame closes the night with some incendiary Hendrix-like guitar histrionics.

It was a triumphant performance for Lizotte. Standing up there completely solo puts a lot of pressure on a performer, but if he was feeling it, he internalised it well. His show gave us the opportunity to see his talented abilities on a myriad of stringed instruments – and these songs, old and new – stripped back to an almost primitive and essential state, an experience that won’t soon be forgotten.

Lost & Lookin’
Since I Fell For You
Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
Hoochie Coochie Man
Work Song

Soul Revival
All Come Together
Fifteen Feet Of Snow
One More Time
I Don’t Need Love
Come To Me
Tip Of My Tongue

I Only Have Eyes For You
Cryin’ Shame


Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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