Whether performing a stunt for Jackass, uttering barely a word in a picturesque art-house film or fronting his band, Will Oldham AKA Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is an instantly recognisable figure. On Friday night the talented troubadour played a superb set chock full of ‘hits’ at the Festival Gardens, but before the weekend was out the Kentucky country/folk luminary was to offer an even more unique experience by playing a show inside Jewel Cave.
A lucky 40punters were granted admission to Western Australia’s largest show cave as they made their way underground along stairs and platforms to take up vantage points above the platform that Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and his band would give their rare acoustic performance. The four members of the band huddled around a single lamp on the makeshift stage as they waited for the crowd to be ushered into position.
No amplifiers or microphones were set up, leaving the natural reverb of the cave to work its magic. Quail And Dumplings saw Oldham cock his leg and make hopping movements as he wandered around the stage looking towards the concealed sky where his voice carried. The til now subdued Angel Olsen moved out of the shadows to bring her stunning timbre to an emphatic version of Troublesome Houses.
Van Campbell was armed with some brushes and a snare resting on its side, but he pulled out a diverse and creative percussive experience as the time keeper clapped, stamped feet and clicked fingers when not creating shade with tambourine.
Among the golden glow of the Jewel Cave the unfettered voices of Oldham, Kelly and Olsen found the band treading into gospel territory where they were giving a sermon as much as they were singing songs. Easy Does It could have been from the Will Oldham ‘Good Book’, though it was when they gave a spacious take on Leonard Cohen’s A Bunch Of Lonesome Heroes that the evangelical nature of the performance came to the fore.
A gentle sneeze from the front man mid-song only served to highlight the spectacular acoustics of the glorious setting, even when Oldham joked that when in Jewel Cave he now realised Gollum’s fascination with the underground during in Lord Of The Rings. A theatrical display from the singer led into After I Made Love To You and a crisp version of The Sounds Are Always Begging.
The single light on the stage was turned off as I See A Darkness was fittingly performed before the band disappeared among the stalactites.
While the setlist on the Friday night may have just shaded this nights offerings, being in the presence of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy in Jewel Cave was more than just a gig, it was an experience.