Jack Ladder’s new album is the most amazing thing I’ve heard from a newly discovered artist all year. It’s his fourth studio album overall, but his first release in the United States.
The Aussie crooner and his band, The Dreamlanders, stopped by DC9 on Thursday to perform the album for DC, but we largely didn’t get the memo. So only a small crowd turned out for some big glam, keeping Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders a secret gem in our city for now.
But that did not deter the band from playing a wonderfully full set, full of great songwriting and powerful guitar hooks. Drawing largely from the new album Playmates, Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders preceded to deliver the audience back to an earlier time when skillful rock musicians sang of love while wearing smart suits from the very first song.
Roxy Music and David Bowie are clear influences on the band — and indeed Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders play in a nearly hypnotic state not unlike the intensity you would receive from a young Bryan Ferry and company. They started their set with “Come on Back,” a notice to a lost love and the first song on Playmates. Jack sings with a casual intensity, letting his voice do most of the work for this first song, as his deep baritone is distinctive and adds gravitas to everything he says and sings.
Next to Jack, the most fascinating performer in the band is Kirin J. Callinan, guitarist extraordinaire. The colorful virtuoso plays his instrument with unmatched bravado, and like Jack, he seems like he seems happily displaced in time in his style and occasional shenanigans.
Make no mistake, however, that Kirin is a serious musician, and he is perhaps most responsible for the lovely glam sound of the live band.
Watch Jack Ladder perform “Come on Back” live solo for the SXSW Showcasing Artist series on Feb. 2, 2015:
On subsequent songs like “Let Me Love You” and “Her Hands,” Kirin really shines as he plays a kind of space guitar, letting the strings reverb into a higher pitch that augments the sound of the band’s glam/new wave leanings. (At this point, I will note a whiff of disappointment that the band traveled to DC at least without synthesizers. That’s understandable perhaps given the demands of a busy tour schedule in a foreign country, but it’s still sad for us new wave enthusiasts.)
For the outstanding song “Her Hands,” clearly about a woman not afraid to make her own way, Jack steps off the stage at the beginning to watch his band from the audience. It’s a nice moment as Jack takes the opportunity to admire his own band, and as the audience is happy to receive him on the floor.
At this moment, Bill Spieler, owner of DC9 and thus our host for the evening, shared with me an astute observation: Jack’s performance and mannerisms are similar to those of a young Julian Cope, the famed Welch musician and author who got his own start in Liverpool with The Teardrop Explodes. While Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders shy away from Julian’s penchant for neo-psychedelia, the similarities are indeed there.
Jack and the band continues with new album highlights “Reputation Amputation,” a song about reinvention that features more fantastic glam guitar, and “The Miracle,” a great song that indeed captures the essence of Roxy Music in their latter-year Avalon era.
Toward the end of the set, Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders perform “To Keep and to Be Kept,” a powerfully dreamy love song that featured backing vocals from Sharon Van Etten on the album. Lucky New Yorkers got to see Sharon perform with Jack and the lads at the Mercury Lounge on Dec. 2.
Watch Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders perform “To Keep and to Be Kept” live for WFUV Public Radio in New York City on April 27, 2015:
Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders have five US dates remaining on this short tour of the United States. If anything I’ve said about them at all sounds the slightest bit intriguing, make every effort to catch one of these shows near you. Their music is incredible, their artistic presentation is unique, and their style is impeccable. Miss them at your peril!
Remaining Jack Ladder 2015 US tour dates:
Dec. 7: Schubas Tavern, Chicago, Ill.
Dec. 8: 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis, Minn.
Dec. 11: Barboza, Seattle, Wash.
Dec. 12: Bunk Bar, Portland, Ore.
Dec. 14: The Echo, Los Angeles, Calif.